Major shakeup in Syrian military
1 July 2000
On this, the annual official day for hirings, firings, and retirements in the Syrian military, the following changes were made: Gen. Ali Haydar was finally pensioned off; Brigadier Gen. Mustafa al-Tajjir, the head of the Palestine division of military intelligence, was sacked; Izzat Suleiman was promoted to Brigadier General in the Air Force Intelligence Service; Col. Muhsin Suleiman, the head of a military unit in Lebanon until recently being transferred back to Syria, was sacked; Gen. Kamal Youssef was removed from military intelligence and transferred to the reserves; and Maher Assad (the brother of Bashar Assad) was promoted to Colonel.
Bashar expected to release political prisoners
13 July 2000
Al-Hayat (London) reported today that Syrian President Bashar Assad will soon pardon "tens" of political prisoners affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communist Action Party (CAP) and other opposition groups. The report said that a high-ranking commission recently toured several detention facilities and met with prisoners to discuss their cases. Although the two leaders of the CAP, Fateh Jamous and Aslan Abdelkarim, were freed a few months ago, it is believed that around 30 members of the CAP are still behind bars. While over 5,000 Muslim Brotherhood activists have been freed in recent years, the group claims that 4,500 of its members are still imprisoned.
Angry mob destroys Assad statue
18 July 2000
One day after Bashar Assad was sworn in as Syrian president, a statue of Hafez Assad in the suburbs of Kudsayy was destroyed by an angry mob and sprayed with offensive graffiti. Residents awoke up to find the authorities hurriedly covering the monument and cleaning up the debris. No one was arrested in connection with the incident, but suspicions focused on supporters of Rifaat Assad.
Syria releases 3 Jordanian prisoners
18 July 2000
The Jordan Times reported today that Syrian authorities have released three Jordanian citizens that have been detained illegally for several years. Imad Sharqawi, the head of a Jordanian committee pushing for the release of up to 650 Jordanian and Palestinian detainees held by Syria, said that one of the men had been held in Syria's Tadmour prison for 12 years. Most of the detainees were charged with membership in Islamist groups or of being Jordanian intelligence agents.
Prince Abdullah reportedly mediating between Bashar, Rifaat
18 July 2000
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah made a brief stop in Damascus to meet with Bashar Assad, a visit that informed sources have said was intended to initiate a dialogue between the Syrian president and his exiled uncle, Rifaat Assad. Rifaat has a close personal friendship with Abdullah, whose wife is the sister of one of Rifaat's four wives.
Turkish troops clash with Syrian infiltrators
18 July 2000
Anatolia News Agency (Ankara) reported that Turkish soldiers clashed today with three armed gunmen attempting to cross over the border from Syria. The infiltrators ignored verbal warnings to halt and then opened fire on Turkish soldiers near the village of Gorentas village in Hatay province. In the ensuing clash, two of the gunmen were killed and the third escaped back into Syria. A similar incident took place in April.
Islamists call on Bashar Assad to "turn a new page"
22 July 2000
Over forty prominent Islamic fundamentalists published an open letter in the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustour calling on newly-elected Syrian President Bashar Assad to "turn a new page" and order "the liberation of all political prisoners and the canceling of special laws that impede national reconciliation" of Syria, referring to a 1980 law that bans membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Signatories of the letter included Mustafa Mashur, the leader of the Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood; Abdel Mejid Zoneibat, the head of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood; Rashed Ghanushi, head of the Tunisian Renaissance Movement; and Rabeh Kebir, president of the executive committee of Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)
Shihabi officially welcomed back by Bashar
24 July 2000
Former military chief-of-staff Hikmat Shihabi was received today by Syrian President Bashar Assad after his return to Syria. Shihabi had fled to the U.S. in June after Syrian sources close to Assad leaked to the press that he would be indicted on corruption charges. The leaks were reportedly not authorized by Bashar himself, however.
30 Muslim Brotherhood militants released
27 July 2000
The head of Syria's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni, told AFP that 30 of its members were released from prison by Syrian authorities. Bayanouni said that he had no information about the identities of the freed activists. The Muslim Brotherhood claims that around 4,500 of its members remain imprisoned in Syria.
Bashar reshuffles media heads
27 July 2000
AFP reported that the directors of several major state-run news organizations in Syria are being replaced. The Cairo bureau chief of the SANA news agency, Ali Abdel Karim, will be promoted to director of the agency, the report said. Fayez Sayegh, Abdel Karim's predecessor, will be appointed director general of Syrian radio and television. Labor unionist and former MP Mahmud Salameh will replace Amid Khuli as editor-in-chief of state-run daily newspaper Al-Thawra, while Khalaf Muhammad al-Jarad will replace Muhammad Kheir al-Wadi as editor-in-chief of Tishrin, another government newspaper.
Ban on Kabbani's poetry lifted
1 August 2000
Syrian censors allowed for the first time the circulation of poetry by Nizar Kabbani. The Damascus-born poet was famous for writing anti-regime material in the 1980s and died in self-imposed exile in 1998. During his funeral, authorities clashed with the 10,000 people who were participating and used force to break up the mob of demonstrators.
Family of terrorism victim sues Syria
2 August 2000
The family of Ira Weinstein, an American-Israeli butcher by profession, who was killed in a Jerusalem bombing on February 25, 1996, filed a lawsuit in New York against Syria, claiming that it had funded the Hamas terrorists who had planted the bomb. The case was brought against the Syrian government and the Syrian Ministry of Defense. Two figures were specifically accused: Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass and the commander of the Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, Gen. Ghazi Kanaan.© 2000 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.