Jordan reports ‘dramatic’ increase in drug smuggling attempts from Syria

Drugs smugglers go to extreme lengths to avoid Jordan’s surveillance of its borders with Syria, which stretch more than 360 km, but several have been shot or killed by border guards in their efforts to cross. (Supplied/Jordanian Armed Forces)
Drugs smugglers go to extreme lengths to avoid Jordan’s surveillance of its borders with Syria, which stretch more than 360 km, but several have been shot or killed by border guards in their efforts to cross. (Supplied/Jordanian Armed Forces)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Jordan reports ‘dramatic’ increase in drug smuggling attempts from Syria

Drugs smugglers go to extreme lengths to avoid Jordan’s surveillance of its borders with Syria, which stretch more than 360 km, but several have been shot or killed by border guards in their efforts to cross. (Supplied/Jordanian Armed Forces)
  • Hezbollah to blame for war-torn country becoming a narco-state, experts say

AMMAN: With the latest figures from the Jordanian Armed Forces revealing a “dramatic” increase in drug smuggling attempts from Syria, experts have warned of the war-torn country becoming a narco-state, posing cross-border threats to nearby Jordan, the region and the rest of the world.

The Jordanian army said in a recent statement it had thwarted 361 infiltration and smuggling attempts from Syria into the kingdom, and seized about 15.5 million pills of narcotics of different types, including Captagon and tramadol, more than 16,000 sheets of hashish weighing 760 kg and almost 2 kilograms of heroin.

Jordan’s Customs Department said on Jan. 12 that working with anti-narcotics teams its personnel foiled an attempt to smuggle 2.7 million Captagon pills in two trucks traveling from Syria at the Jaber-Nasib border crossing.

A military source, who requested anonymity, told Arab News the figures were “dramatically high.”

“Illicit drug cultivation and manufacture has become a growing industry in Syria,” the person said.

The Jordanian army said it foiled more than 130 infiltration and smuggling attempts from Syria in 2020 that resulted in the seizure of about 132 million Captagon pills and more than 15,000 sheets of hashish.

Drugs smugglers go to extreme lengths to avoid Jordan’s surveillance of its borders with Syria, which stretch more than 360 km, but several have been shot or killed by border guards in their efforts to cross.

In October, the Jordanian army said it shot down a drone carrying a large quantity of drugs as it flew over the border.

Another Jordanian security source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that traffickers from Syria used secret routes and tunnels to smuggle their illicit products into the kingdom.

“Having all these routes spotted by the Jordanian army, smugglers resort to other methods, including drones and even animals,” the person said.

According to the Syrian news website Enab Baladi, drug smuggling operations are most active in Syria’s southern regions of Daraa and Al-Suwayda. Most of the smuggling routes are controlled by armed Bedouin tribes that have affiliations inside Jordan, it quoted sources as saying.

It added that traffickers used sewer pipes and tunnels to smuggle drugs into Jordan.

In November 2018, the Jordanian army said it thwarted a “large terrorist scheme” to infiltrate the kingdom via the Trans-Arabian Pipeline.

Experts say the strong presence of Lebanon’s Shiite militant organization Hezbollah in Syria and the expansion of its drug trafficking operations are the main reasons for the war-torn country becoming a narco-state, and the increase of drug smuggling into Jordan, Arab Gulf states and Europe.

In remarks to Arab News, Fayez Dweiri, a retired major general and military analyst, said Hezbollah had resorted to the narcotics trade to secure funding after the US sanctions on Iran.

“There is an established illicit drugs industry for Hezbollah in Beirut’s Dahieh Al-Janubiya in the Shiite stronghold of Baalbek. Hezbollah has relocated some of its drug factories to Aleppo and other Syrian government-controlled regions,” he said.

Dweiri said Hezbollah had always used its money laundering and drug trafficking networks to finance its military arsenal and operations, and to fund the social services for its constituents.

“The US sanctions on Iran have hit Hezbollah hard, obliging Tehran’s most funded proxy to look for other sources of revenues,” he said.

Asked whether the Syrian government was involved in illicit drug trafficking, Dweiri said: “I don’t have any documents proving that but to let Hezbollah operate such massive illicit activities in the country is alone a big crime.”

Enab Baladi claimed that drugs were being smuggled from Lebanon to Syria in vehicles backed by the armed forces, meaning they could pass through military checkpoints without being inspected.

According to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hezbollah has significantly expanded and institutionalized its drug trafficking enterprises, which now generate more money than its other funding streams. The think tank claimed that Hezbollah’s global narcotics industry began in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the 1970s, using well-established smuggling routes across the Israel-Lebanon border.

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Israeli president to make first-ever state visit to UAE

Israeli president to make first-ever state visit to UAE
Updated 26 January 2022

Israeli president to make first-ever state visit to UAE

Israeli president to make first-ever state visit to UAE
  • The visit comes some 16 months after the wealthy UAE broke with decades of Arab consensus and forged diplomatic ties with Israel

JERUSALEM: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog will make a historic visit to the UAE at the end of the month, his office said Tuesday, in the latest high-profile diplomatic trip since the countries normalized ties.
Herzog’s office said the president, who will travel with the first lady, will meet United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during the January 30-31 trip.
“We have the privilege of making history by making the first visit of an Israeli president to the United Arab Emirates,” Herzog said in the statement, adding that the countries were “laying the foundations of a new shared future.”
Herzog is also scheduled to meet with the ruler of Dubai and senior government officials, and visit the Dubai Expo, his office said.
The visit comes some 16 months after the wealthy UAE broke with decades of Arab consensus and forged diplomatic ties with Israel.
The move was part of a series of US-brokered deals known as the Abraham Accords, pacts that have angered the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made history last month when he became the first Israeli head of government to visit UAE, in a trip that partly focused on international talks on Iran’s nuclear program, a top Israeli security priority.
Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, will be the first Israeli head of state to officially visit the UAE.
He vowed “the bold new partnership” between the countries “will transform the Middle East,” with Israel keen to expand the list of Arab nations that sign on to the Abraham Accords.
The deals were negotiated under former US president Donald Trump but endorsed by President Joe Biden’s administration.
Bahrain and Morocco have also normalized ties with Israel under the accords.
Sudan has agreed to do so but formal diplomatic relations have not emerged amid roiling instability in Khartoum.


Yemen army liberates land, hits Houthi targets

Yemen army liberates land, hits Houthi targets
Updated 26 January 2022

Yemen army liberates land, hits Houthi targets

Yemen army liberates land, hits Houthi targets
  • On Tuesday the coalition launched a series of attacks against Houthi targets overnight, destroying a communications system and weapons depot in Marib

DUBAI: Government forces in Yemen liberated a large swathe of land in the Taiz governorate, after heavy clashes with the Iran-backed Houthis as coalition forces struck more militia sites across the country.

Backed by air cover from the coalition, government troops pushed deeper into Houthi-controlled territy and liberated Azla and Khouloud.

Meanwhile, battles continue raging south of the city of Marib between the government-backed forces and the Houthi militia.

Dozens of Houthis were killed in heavy fighting with government troops west and south of Marib amid intensifying coalition airstrikes, according to state-owned news agency SABA.

On Tuesday the coalition launched a series of attacks against Houthi targets overnight, destroying a communications system and weapons depot in Marib.


Qatar emir to meet with Biden in Washington Jan 31: White House

Qatar emir to meet with Biden in Washington Jan 31: White House
Updated 26 January 2022

Qatar emir to meet with Biden in Washington Jan 31: White House

Qatar emir to meet with Biden in Washington Jan 31: White House
  • The two sides will discuss ‘ensuring the stability of global energy supplies’

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will receive Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad at the White House on Jan. 31, his spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Biden and the Gulf state leader will discuss security in the Middle East and “ensuring the stability of global energy supplies,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The meeting comes as Washington and its European allies are seeking to shore up energy contingency plans should Russia squeeze supplies due to tensions with the West over Ukraine.
The US and its EU allies accuse Russia of seeking to upend European stability by threatening invasion of neighboring Ukraine, a former Soviet republic striving to join NATO and other Western institutions.
The European Union sources about 40 percent of its supply from Russia, and Washington and its European allies have been scouring global markets for alternative energy sources.
Qatar, a close US ally, has huge gas reserves and is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
Psaki said Biden will also thank the emir for Qatar’s support to the United States in safely transporting US citizens, permanent residents and Afghan partners out of Afghanistan in the wake of the US withdrawal last year.
Qatar has played a significant role both in diplomacy and evacuations at the end of nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.


UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice
Updated 25 January 2022

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice

UN Security Council condemns Iraq terror attack, urges all nations to help seek justice
  • At least 11 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in their sleep on Friday by suspected Daesh gunmen

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned “in the strongest terms” a recent terrorist attack in Iraq’s Diyala Province, and called for all “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism” to be brought to justice.
At dawn on Friday, Jan. 21, at least 11 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in their sleep during an attack on their barracks by suspected Daesh gunmen, according to reports citing Iraqi security officials. It happened in the Al-Azim district, a mountainous area more than 70 miles north of the capital, Baghdad.
The Security Council urged all states to actively cooperate with the Iraqi Government in seeking to hold the perpetrators to account, in line with their obligations under international law and the council’s resolutions. It reiterated that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
In a joint statement, council members reaffirmed that “any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
They highlighted the need for all states “to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”
Council members also shared “their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the government of Iraq, and they wished a speedy and full recovery to those who were injured.”


Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert
Updated 25 January 2022

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert

Refusal of nations to repatriate children from Syria ‘beggars belief,’ says UN rights expert
  • More than 700 child citizens of 57 countries, including France, Germany, the UK and the US, are detained at Al-Ghuwayran prison, which holds Daesh militants and their families
  • Fighting continues at the prison, where almost 300 detainees have been killed since a deadly jailbreak attempt by hundreds of Daesh insurgents began last week

NEW YORK: A UN human rights expert on Tuesday voiced serious concern for the well-being of more than 700 children incarcerated at Al-Ghuwayran prison, in Al-Hasakeh in northeast Syria, and called on all countries to repatriate their young citizens held in the country.
The prison was the scene of a deadly attempted jailbreak by hundreds of Daesh insurgents last week.
“Boys as young as 12 are living in fear for their lives amid the chaos and carnage in the jail,” said Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the UN’s special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
“They are tragically being neglected by their own countries through no fault of their own except they were born to individuals allegedly linked or associated with designated terrorist groups.
“The treatment of hundreds of boys who have been detained in grotesque prison conditions is an affront to the dignity of the child and the right of every child to be treated with dignity.”
Almost 300 detainees have been killed during days of fighting at Al-Ghuwayran, which began last Thursday with the detonation of two car bombs. Clashes are continuing at the prison, which holds more than 5,000 alleged Daesh militants from almost 60 countries. The insurgents had seized control of the children’s section of the facility.
Fighters from the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces are said to be closing in on the final section of prison still held by Daesh attackers, as the situation becomes increasingly worrying for inmates.
Humanitarian groups have renewed calls for all governments to repatriate their citizens from Syria.
“The abject refusal of states to repatriate their children is a contributory factor in the security and human rights morass that has ignited in Al-Hasakeh in recent days,” said Ni Aolain, who last year sent official letters to 57 governments of countries believed to have citizens in Syrian camps. They include France, Germany, the UK, Finland and the US.
The failure of governments to repatriate detained children, who are victims of terrorism and in need of protection under international law, “beggars belief,” Ni Aolain said.
“Many of these boys, forcibly separated from their mothers and family members in recent years, have been denied their most fundamental human rights their entire lives,” she added.
“They have been held arbitrarily and never participated in any legal process that would justify depriving them of their liberty, and in conditions that constitute torture, cruel and degrading treatment under international law.
“Treating boys as a distinct class, refusing to recognize in practice their rights as children, is a form of gender discrimination that has had horrific consequences for these children now caught up in the violent confrontation at Al-Hasakeh prison.”
Ni Aolain called on all states and other entities active in northeastern Syria to ensure that civilians are protected, and for those involved in regaining control of the prison to protect the children held there and prevent further harm coming to them.
Special rapporteurs are independent experts who serve in individual capacities, and on a voluntary basis, on the UN’s Human Rights Council. They are not members of UN staff and are not paid for their work.