Billionaire Assad calls for crackdown “on everyone without exception”
Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad has proclaimed that he will take action against corruption.
Assad’s family and friends control many of Syria’s leading businesses and industry, with analysts estimating ownership of 60% to 70% of the country’s assets. Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, with an estimated wealth of $6 billion, owns Syriatel, the largest mobile phone network in Syria, and retail, banking, and real estate companies. Assad himself was estimated to have $1.5 billion in holdings in 2012.
Assad made no reference to any of these interests in his Sunday meeting with Amina al-Shammat, the Chairwoman of the Central Commission for Inspection and Control, although he asked her for “double efforts to eradicate these manifestations [of negligence, poor performance, and corruption] and enforce the law on everyone without exception”.
The leader aslo said that there should be more effective monitoring of the performance of government institutions and dealing with negligent workers.
Shammat reportedly said “fighting shortcomings in the performance of the government institutions and stopping waste of public money in all its forms will be at the top of the Commission’s priorities”.
Rebel Commander: Opposition Has Not Accepted Assad’s Stay in Power
Rebel commander Mohammed Alloush has emphasized that the Syrian opposition has not accepted Bashar al-Assad’s continued stay in power.
After last week’s seventh set of Geneva talks, Russian officials have been declaring an advance towards acknowledging Assad’s ongoing rule, setting aside the notion of political transition.
The Russians have succeeded in moving UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to a focus on “counter-terrorism” — the Assad regime’s labeling of many opposition and rebel elements — rather than on transition.
Free Syrian Army Attack on Kurdish Militia YPG in Northwest
The Free Syrian Army has launched an attack on a position of the Kurdish militia YPG in northwest Syria.
Pro-opposition activists confirmed that the attack — apparently a probing operation — led to the deaths of several FSA fighters and the capture of another.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) July 17, 2017
The YPG said in a statement that “many attackers [were] killed or captured”: “[We] do not wish to fight Turkey or its proxies, but once attacked, we will use all our right to self-defense, period.”
— Mustafa Abdi (@mustefaebdi) July 17, 2017
The FSA, supported by Turkey, and the YPG have clashed in northwest Syria on a front from Azaz to Mare’.
European Union Imposes Sanctions on 16 More Regime Figures
The European Union has imposed sanctions against another 16 Assad regime officials “for their role in the development and use of chemical weapons against the civilian population”.
The sanctioned persons are eight high-ranking military officials and eight scientists involved in weapons proliferation and delivery.
In addition to an oil embargo, restrictions on investments, an assets freeze on the Syrian central bank and export restrictions on equipment and technology, the EU has sanctioned 255 persons and 67 entities.
Report: Civilian Casualties Double From US-Led Attacks Under Trump
Airwars reports that civilian casualties have doubled since January 2017 in US-led aerial operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
More than 2,200 civilians were killed by coalition strikes between Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20 and July 13 — an average of 12 per day, according to the monitor.
Under the Obama Administration, at least 2,300 civilians were killed from August 2014 to January 2017, less than three per day.
The data from the coalition, whose numbers have been far lower than the total documented by Airwars, show 40% of 603 civilian fatalities have occurred since January.
Belkis Wille, the Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch, said:
Remarkably, when I interview families at camps who have just fled the fighting, the first thing they complain about is not the three horrific years they spent under ISIS, or the last months of no food or clean water, but the American airstrikes. Many told me that they survived such hardship, and almost made it out with the families, only to lose all their loved ones in a strike before they had time to flee.
Iraqi forces reclaimed all of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, from the Islamic State last week; however, the war is ongoing in ISIS’s Syrian center of Raqqa. Airwars has documented more than 700 civilian deaths in and near the city between March and early June.
Earlier this month the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that the US-led coalition is now second — surpassing Russia but still far behind the Assad regime — in the number of civilian casualties inflicted in Syria.
Regime Warplanes Bombing Camps Inside Lebanon
Assad regime warplanes are bombing refugee camps inside Lebanon near the Syrian border.
The latest attacks were reported on Monday morning near Arsal, the border town where the Lebanese Army has also clashed with militants.
Earlier this month Lebanese security forces entered the Arsal camp and beat and detained a number of men. The forces later said that they had come under attack by five suicide bombers and another attacker with a hand grenade.
Arsal’s mayor warned on Monday of the “battle to come” in the area.
Report: Dozens of Civilians Killed in Latest Pro-Assad Attacks Near Damascus
The White Helmets civil defense reports that dozens of civilians have been killed by pro-Assad bombing and shelling since last Thursday in the East Ghouta area near Damascus.
The report details the deaths of 32 civilians and wounding of more than 50 in 32 airstrikes on Thursday on areas such as Ein Tarma and Zamalka. Eight more raids on Ein Tarma were recorded on Friday, including one collapsing a four-story residential building — victims were recovered after a 17-hour effort.
At least five regime airstrikes and “200 artillery shells” hit Ein Tarma on Monday, said Mohammad Abu al-Yaman, a pro-opposition citizen journalist.
The regime forces have also reportedly used chlorine on several occasions in recent weeks in the fighting in and near Damascus.
The pro-Assad attacks are seeking advances in the Jobar section of northeast Damascus and in suburbs such as Ein Tarma. So far they have struggled to make any gains.
The Free Syrian Army said on Sunday night that it destroyed three regime tanks, while Jaish al-Islam announced that it destroyed two tanks, seized a mobile bridge — the third that it has destroyed or damaged and captured — and inflicted significant casualties near Hawsh al-Dahahra. Failaq Al-Rahman said it destroyed a T-72 tank on the Ein Tarma front.
Pro-regime daily al-Watan claimed that the Syrian Arab Army was able to “retake a number of buildings and kill a number of fighters from the Jabhat a-Nusra terrorist organization” — but Jabhat al-Nusra, now renamed Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and part of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham bloc, is not present in the Ein Tarma area.