Iran’s presence in Syria in November 2023 | 44 fatalities in US and Israeli attacks…29 attacks on US bases under “Revenge Campaign for Gaza”…military reinforcement arrives in Homs desert and border with occupied Syrian Golan
SOHR calls upon all international actors to intensify their efforts to expel Iran and its proxies from Syria and bring to justice all those who aided and abetted the killing and displacement of Syrian people
Iran and its proxy militias have unprecedented influence in most areas under the “symbolic” regime control, as neither attacks by Israel and the International Coalition, nor the “cold war” with Russia could hinder the alarming entrenchment and expansion of these forces across Syria. Strengthening their presence and promoting their ideology, the Iranians are still carrying on with their systematic plan to change the demography of different areas throughout Syria’s geography.
In the following report, SOHR highlights the key developments in areas dominated by the Iranians in November 2023.
SOHR activists documented the death of 44 Iranian-backed militiamen in ground and aerial attacks in Syria in November 2023; they are as follows:
- 16 Syrian and non-Syrian militiamen were killed in Israeli strikes.
- 21 Syrian and non-Syrian militiamen were killed in US strikes.
- Six Syrian militiamen were killed by ISIS.
- One Syrian militiaman was assassinated.
29 attacks target Coalition bases in Syria
At orders by the military command, Iranian-backed militias continued the series of retaliatory measures against US forces amid the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, where SOHR documented 29 rocket and drone attacks on Coalition bases in different areas across Syria in November; they are distributed as follows:
- Six attacks on Al-Omar oil field base.
- Six attack on Al-Shaddadi base.
- Five attacks on the Kharab Al-Jair base in Al-Rumailan.
- Five attacks on Koniko gas field base.
- Four attacks on Al-Tanf garrison.
- Two attack on Tel Baydar base.
- One attack on Qasrak base.
Meanwhile, US forces reacted to those attacks by four rounds of airstrikes in November, targeting positions of Iranian-backed militias in Deir Ezzor province. Those airstrikes left 21 fatalities and caused heavy material losses. Here are further details on the US attacks on positions of Iranian-backed militias in the past month:
- November 8: Nine persons working for the Iranians, including three Syrians at least, were killed in airstrikes by US fighter jets on military headquarters and a weapons warehouse next to the automated bread bakery in Por-Said street in Deir Ezzor city.
- November 12: Eight Iranian-backed militiamen, including one Syrian at least, were killed in US airstrikes on Deir Ezzor. The US airstrikes targeted weapons and ammunition warehouses and a missile launcher in Hasrat in Al-Bokamal countryside and Al-Haidariyah farms near Al-Mayadeen city, where at least four explosions hit Al-Bokamal, while a violent one hit Al-Mayadeen that was heard in Al-Bokamal as a part of the American bombing.
- November 23: Fighter jets believed to be affiliate to the International Coalition attacked positions of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Mrat and Khasham villages in Deir Ezzor countryside within areas controlled by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias.
- November 29: Four persons: an Iraqi man and three members of the Iranian-backed National Defence Forces, were killed and their bodies were cremated in an attack by a drone on a military vehicle belonging to Iranian-backed militias at the border between Syria and Iraq in Al-Bokamal city in eastern Deir Ezzor.
Meetings and military drills under preparations for expected confrontation with US forces
On November 5, a meeting was held in Qassem Soleimani centre in Al-Bokamal city in eastern Deir Ezzor attended bysenior commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Lebanese Hezbollah with the aim of supporting the so-called “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” and “Hamas” and discuss the latest developments of the “Revenge Campaign for Gaza.” According to SOHR sources, this movement was formed under IRGC supervision with the aim of attacking US bases in north-east Syria, where senior commanders of IRGC and Hezbollah have been tasked with managing those military operations.
One of those commanders are “Haj Mohamed Al-Sherif” who leads the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” and he is in charge of the coordination of those operations and making strategic decisions. Another commander known as “Haj Hussein” works as the deputy commander of the movement and he is responsible for training the movement’s members and providing them with military equipment. Also, “Haj Sejad” has been tasked with coordination of military operations and leading members on the ground. Meanwhile, a commander known “Ali Hakim” is responsible for logistical affairs of the movement and providing its members with required military equipment.
The so-called “Islamic Resistance” carry out attacks with drones and rockets on International Coalition bases, mostly from Al-Mayadeen city, Al-Asharah and Al-Bokamal desert. Those attacks, which have escalated noticeably with the growing regional tension following the brutal offensive on Gaza, come as a part of efforts by the Iranians to entrench their presence in the region and as a response to the US presence in Syria.
While on November 10, Iranian-backed militias conducted live-fire exercises in the 137th Brigade in the southern desert of Deir Ezzor, using cannons and machineguns. The military drills attended by several commanders of Lebanese Hezbollah.
“Elite Forces” dominate border with occupied Syrian Golan
SOHR sources have confirmed that the so-called “Elite Forces” imposed their influence over areas surrounding the occupied Syrian Golan in Al-Quneitra countryside, western Rif Dimashq and parts of west Daraa countryside.
The “Elite Forces” comprise fighters of the “Syrian Resistance of the Liberation of Golan” and fighters of Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian and other nationalities, who have been trained by the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The number of the “Elite Forces” fighter is estimated to be more than 700, where they arrived in that region during October in batches, without any coordination with the military leadership of the Syrian regime.
It is worth noting that the regime’s military leadership had given strict orders to regime forces deployed in that region not to fire any shells or bullets towards the occupied Syrian Golan.
Ongoing efforts to woo and impress civilians
The “women’s department” of the Iranian Cultural Centre in Al-Qosour Neighbourhood in Deir Ezzor City announced the start of extensive courses on first aid, to train young and older women on this field.
The determined duration of the course is 30 days, during which women undergo training on all first aid and primary health care procedures.
This gesture targets the women of the age of 18 to 25 years old, to provide them with necessary skills to give first aid in emergency cases, and this is considered a valuable chance for women to learn and improve their skill in the medical field, where the first aid provided in the course also provide a certificate of attendance to the trainees.
While on November 28, the Iranian Cultural Centre affiliated of IRGC in Al-Villat neighbourhood in Deir Ezzor city, announced its need to employ about 20 women who hold university degrees, with the aim of supervising the center’s work.
The director of the Iranian Cultural Centre (Haj Rasoul) stipulated that women wishing to work must be full-time at work, hold a university degree (kindergarten) and other certificates related to the subjects taught in the centres, in exchange for a salary of up to one million SYP per month.
This was offset by a large turnout of women, especially those holding university degrees, in light of the lack of employment opportunities in the regime’s government institutions.
The recruitment mechanism is conducted by asking several questions by the director of the Iranian Cultural Centre to women, most notably are not to oppose any idea presented by (Haj Rasoul), direct loyalty to the Iranian presence, publishing advertisements for courses within the centre to attract the largest group supporting the Iranian presence in the region, holding religious parties following the doctrine of “Wali Al-Faqih”, and conducting recreational trips for students to Al-Bokamal and Al-Mayadeen cities. After these conditions are approved, they are appointed to the centre.
Reinforcement arrives in Homs desert
Iranian-backed militias boosted their positions in Homs desert in the last ten days of November, where Iranian-backed militias brought in military reinforcements during the past hours, comprising weapons and ammunition, including short and medium range missiles, in addition to logistical equipment and soldiers, who came from Deir Ezzor and Rif Dimashq, on the orders of the militias leadership, amid an alert in the area. This is similar to the reinforcements and mobilization of what are known as the Iranian-backed elite forces near the border with the occupied Golan in Rif Dimashq and Al-Qunaitrah countryside.
According SOHR sources, reinforcements reached the vicinity of the Marhatan village, and Al-Olayaniyah area, which is approximately 30 kilometres away from the 55-kilometre area, in which “Al-Tanaf” base of the “International Coalition” forces is located.
Ongoing Israeli attacks
As Israel continues to violate Syria’s sovereignty, SOHR documented ten attacks in November: eight airstrikes and two rocket attacks by ground forces. Those attacks left 16 Iranian-backed Syrian and non-Syrian militias dead.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) is used to hearing the Syrian regime’s empty mantra that it always reserves the right to respond to Israeli attacks. However, regime forces do not hesitate when it comes to shelling opposition positions or bombarding residential and civilian areas inside Syria. The Iranians also dare not launch a large-scale military operation against Israel, as they know full well that they will be facing the might of Israel’s military, so the Iranians seem satisfied with letting its proxies do its bidding by firing only a few rockets from time to time on the occupied Syrian Golan, using the Iranian and Hezbollah-backed movement “Syrian Resistance to Liberate Golan”.
At a time when the Syrian regime “intercepts and downs” Israeli missiles only with a Russian green light, Israel can hit Iranian targets -with the purpose of undermining the Iranian military presence in Syria- and only with Russia’s full consent.
On the other hand, Washington justifies Israel’s stance that “Tel Aviv practices its legal rights to defend its security and interests against the Iranian direct threat”, not to mention the US desire to get Syria free of Iranian forces and militias.
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), call for keeping the Syrian civilians out of the regional conflicts as the targeted areas and facilities are owned by Syrian people alone, not by Iran or its proxy militias.
SOHR stresses the importance of expelling the Iranian forces and militias from Syria without risking the safety and lives of civilians or damaging Syria’s public properties and facilities.