Politics

Qaani in Albu Kamal as new IRGC camp opens

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Vehicles are seen at an IRGC-affiliated militia site in the Albu Kamal countryside. [Photo courtesy of Sada al-Sharqiyya]

Top Iranian general Esmail Qaani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF), visited the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal a few days ago, a local activist and media reports said.

In conjunction with his visit, the IRGC opened a new training camp in rural Deir Ezzor, activist Jameel al-Abed told Diyaruna on Tuesday (June 30th).

According to the Reuters news agency, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday reported Qaani had visited Albu Kamal, but later deleted the report without explanation.

The strategic area, in Syria's Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq, just across from the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, is controlled by the IRGC and affiliated militias, which have been on high alert, al-Abed said.

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IRGC Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani poses with two IRGC militia leaders during his recent visit to Albu Kamal. [Photo courtesy of Al-Alam]

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A fighter from the IRGC-affiliated Zainabiyoun Brigade poses with a photo of slain IRGC-QF commander Qassem Soleimani. The brigade is deployed in Deir Ezzor. [Photo courtesy of Sada al-Sharqiyya]

Several rounds of airstrikes that have been blamed on Israel targeted the area over the weekend, AFP reported.

The new IRGC camp is dedicated to training recruits from the area, al-Abed said.

IRGC leadership in the area recently allowed dozens of families who had been displaced from Albu Kamal and its hinterland to return, he said, on the condition that those who are fit to bear arms join the IRGC's militias.

Some returning families have been forced to stay with relatives or rent a house, since their homes are located in areas that have been commandeered by the militias, he said, while new recruits are being housed at military bases.

Once the recruits have completed their training, they will be distributed among the various IRGC-aligned militias deployed in the area, especially in the desert areas, where Syrian nationals have been reluctant to fight, he said.

Affiliation with IRGC-controlled militias exempts recruits from mandatory service in the Syrian regime forces, al-Abed said, noting that new identification cards have been distributed to the newest recruits so they are not subject to arrest.

Meanwhile, he added, IRGC-affiliated militias have been conducting their own round-up, targeting people accused of acting against the IRGC and the militias.

At the same time, he said, Lebanese Hizbullah has been detaining people in the nearby Deir Ezzor city of al-Mayadeen, and confiscating the motorcycles of anyone who does not hold a special militia-issued security permit.

Airstrikes target militia positions

Airstrikes targeting positions of Iran-backed militias on Sunday killed nine fighters, in the second such raid in 24 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that Israel was "likely responsible" for the strikes.

The strikes, conducted near the border with Iraq, came hours after a similar raid killed six other Iran-backed fighters in the area, raising the toll to 15 killed in 24 hours, AFP reported.

The fighters killed in the early Sunday raids were mostly Iraqi nationals, according to Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman, while four Syrian nationals were among the six fighters killed on Saturday.

Saturday's raid came only days after Israeli strikes in Deir Ezzor province and the southern province of Sweida killed seven fighters, including two Syrian soldiers, according to the Observatory.

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