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SNHR Investigation Proves Jordanian Forces’ Responsibility for An Attack on Orman Town in Rural Suwayda That Killed 10 Syrian Civilians, Including Two Girls and Five Women on January 18, 2024

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The Syrian Regime is Involved in Producing Captagon and is Concealing Captagon Warehouses in Civilian Locations, Endangering Syrian Citizens’ Lives

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Press release: (Download the full report below)

The Hague – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released an investigative report proving the Jordanian forces’ responsibility for an attack on Orman town in Rural Suwayda that killed 10 Syrian civilians, including two girls and five children on January 18, 2024. In the report, the group stresses that the Syrian regime is involved in producing Captagon and is concealing Captagon warehouses in civilian locations, endangering Syrian citizens’ lives.

The objective of this report is twofold. First, it aims to document the massacre of civilians that took place on January 18, 2024, in airstrikes on Orman town in southern rural Suwayda governorate which were carried out by fixed-wing warplanes originating from Jordanian territory and suspected to be affiliated with the Jordanian air force on the pretext of combating the trafficking of Captagon and other narcotics from Syria. Second, the report emphasizes that the Syrian regime is wholly responsible for concealing both Syrian and non-Syrian drug-traffickers among Syrian civilians, especially since regime-controlled areas have become the world’s largest Captagon source under the regime’s auspices and in coordination with Hezbollah and Iranian militias.

Since the beginning of December 2023, the report notes, the number of Captagon smuggling operations from Syria to Jordan has risen steadily. These increasing criminal operations have involved attacks on Jordanian Border Guards by the armed smuggling groups using light and medium weapons, as well as explosives, which naturally also led to shootouts. Between December 1, 2023, and January 19, 2024, the Jordanian Armed Forces announced that they had foiled eight attempts to smuggle narcotics from Syria, following shootouts between the Jordanian Border Guard and the drug-smugglers. Some of those incidents have seen violent clashes that lasted for hours, resulting in deaths and injuries on both sides.

During the same period and in tandem with these increasing drug-smuggling operations, the report adds, SNHR documented air raids on areas of southern Syria on the Syrian-Jordanian border by fixed-wing warplanes suspect to have originated from Jordanian territory. Between December 18, 2023, and January 19, 2024, no fewer than four aerial attacks were carried out by fixed-wing warplanes suspected to be affiliated with the Jordanian air force. In each of those attacks, the warplanes carried out airstrikes targeting cities and towns mostly in rural Suwayda governorate. In total, those attacks killed no fewer than 18 civilians, including four children and seven women (adult female).

As the report explains, Orman town is located in southern rural Suwayda governorate near Syria’s southern borders. Administratively affiliated with Salkhad subdistrict, the town is located 40 kilometers to the southeast of the center of Suwayda governorate, and about 24 kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border. Orman town is currently under the control of Syrian regime forces, with no presence of Hezbollah or Iranian militias fighters , or of any Captagon/narcotics manufacturing or processing facilities documented there. According to local sources and accounts by some residents, however, the town is a transit point for some smugglers. One of the best-known smugglers in the town is an individual known as Faris Semou’a, who is believed to be one of the most prominent smugglers in the area, having been an associate of Mer’ie al-Ramthan, another well-known drug-smuggler who was killed in Jordanian airstrikes on May 8, 2023. According to some residents of the town, al-Semou’a fled with his family from the farm where they’d been living, which we believe houses a Captagon warehouse, an hour before the airstrike that we suspect was carried out by Jordanian forces on January 8. This was the only attack targeting the town before the January 18 attack that resulted in the massacre.

The report further notes that, on Thursday, January 18, 2024, fixed-wing warplanes originating from Jordanian territory and suspected to be affiliated with the Jordanian air force carried out two airstrikes on Orman town, targeting two sites and killing 10 civilians, including two girls and five women. In the first site, the report further details, at least one missile struck a house in eastern Orman town inhabited by a Mr. Omar Talab and his family, killing three civilians, including two women. Additionally, the house and the surrounding area were heavily destroyed. Meanwhile, a number of missiles, suspected to be two, struck the center of Orman town. One of the missiles directly hit a two-story house inhabited by local residents Nazih al-Halabi and his family and Turki al-Halabi and his family, killing seven civilians, including two girls and three women, and wounding another woman. This house was almost completely destroyed in the airstrikes, which also heavily destroyed a number of the surrounding houses.

The report stresses that, given the highly centralized nature of the Syrian regime, it would be impossible to run a Captagon-production and distribution network of such a massive scale as the one currently operating in areas under the regime’s control without its central approval and supervision. The very idea of cooperating with the entity responsible for producing and distributing the Captagon in operations to combat the same Captagon production and smuggling networks is utterly absurd. The report adds that the Syrian regime and Hezbollah bear responsibility for concealing the traffickers of Captagon and other narcotics, as well as concealing warehouses for these drugs among Syrian civilians, effectively endangering the lives of their families and of local residents living in and around those areas. Furthermore, Jordanian military forces are responsible for killing civilians, including children. They must acknowledge responsibility for these crimes, apologize to the victims, compensate their families, and respect the principles of international law.

The report calls on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution obliging the Syrian regime to cease the production of and trade in Captagon and other narcotics, and to impose strict UN sanctions in any cases of non-compliance. Additionally, the report calls on the international community to take action against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah through every means possible, more especially considering the fact that the production of Captagon and other addictive narcotics poses a threat to all the world’s peoples, but especially to the Syrian people. The report adds that the international community should also support, and coordinate and cooperate with organizations working on combating the Captagon trade, in addition to making other recommendations.

Download the full report

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