HRW Warns against ‘Guantanamo on the Euphrates’

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces hold a meeting inside a house that has become their camp in Raqqa, Syria October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces hold a meeting inside a house that has become their camp in Raqqa, Syria October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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HRW Warns against ‘Guantanamo on the Euphrates’

Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces hold a meeting inside a house that has become their camp in Raqqa, Syria October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Fighters of Syrian Democratic Forces hold a meeting inside a house that has become their camp in Raqqa, Syria October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Any transfers of suspected foreign militants and their relatives out of Syria should be transparent, Human Rights Watch told Agence France Presse, as camps in the northeast fill with families of different nationalities.

With the crumbling of ISIS, France is now considering bringing dozens of accused French militants, as well as their wives and children, back home from the detention centers and camps run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

"We would definitely like to be present (during the transfer), or at least there should be some transparency," Nadim Houry, HRW's director of counter-terrorism, told AFP in the northern Syrian town of Amuda late Wednesday.

"As we speak, there may already be transfers happening. There's been a total lack of transparency, and bad things happen in the dark," he warned.

Tens of thousands of foreigners are estimated to have joined ISIS since 2014, but they have streamed out of its collapsing territory in recent years.

The SDF, who are bearing down on the shrinking pocket of ISIS territory in east Syria, told AFP they were detaining foreign fighters on a "daily basis."

The SDF are also holding hundreds of women and children who were born to alleged ISIS militants, including French nationals, in two main prison camps in the north.

Authorities at one of the camps, Al-Hol, say they have received more than 1,000 foreign nationals since fighting against ISIS's last positions ramped up in mid-December.

On Wednesday, dozens of foreign women and their young children, who had recently arrived from the battered ISIS pocket further south, could be seen waiting in a reception area in Al-Hol.

The women wore black veils covering everything but their blue eyes and called out to their pale, thin children in English and French.

They were waiting to be assigned tents in the cordoned-off section of the camp where foreigners are held, and were not allowed to speak to reporters.

French sources have told AFP that an estimated 50 adults and 80 children could be brought back to France, but authorities have not confirmed any planned transfer.

"While this debate is taking place in France, it's not clear it has manifested itself in any concrete measures on the ground," said Houry, whose team plans to visit foreigners in the camps. 

HRW is seeking clarity on the numbers that might return, what route they would be transferred through, and whether children would be separated from their parents.

France has a responsibility not to leave its citizens, including children under seven years old, in legal limbo in a "Guantanamo on the Euphrates," Houry said.

"We are confident that once they actually hit France, there is a mechanism in place," he said. 

"What we're concerned about is what is going to happen between now and then. We're in a grey zone."



Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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Israel Strikes Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon Foes after Attacks

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The Middle East was reeling Sunday from deadly violence with Israel bombing Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen in quick succession in response to attacks from Iran-backed militant groups.
Despite Washington's top diplomat asserting a deal is near the "goal line" to end more than nine months of devastating war between Israel and Gaza rulers Hamas, the Israeli military said it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen, as it pressed on with its offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, Agence France Presse reported.
Dozens have been killed since Saturday across the Gaza Strip, the civil defense agency said, including in strikes on homes in the central Nuseirat and Bureij areas and displaced people near southern Khan Yunis.
Residents said a major operation was underway in the district of Rafah in the south, reporting heavy artillery and clashes.
The deadly strikes in Gaza came hours after Hezbollah and its ally Hamas said they fired at Israeli positions from south Lebanon, while Yemen's Houthi group vowed to respond to Israeli warplanes hitting a key port.
The fire left raging by the strikes on Hodeida port "is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Detailing the first strikes claimed by Israel in Yemen, Gallant warned of further operations if the Houthis "dare to attack us" after a Houthi drone strike killed one in Tel Aviv on Friday.
In Hodeida three people were killed and 87 wounded, health officials said in a statement carried by Houthi media.
Netanyahu travels to Washington
The trio of militant groups has vowed to keep up attacks on Israel until a truce ends the violence in Gaza, which lies in ruins, with most residents forced to flee their homes.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel's military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,919 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The war has also unleashed hunger and health crises in Gaza, with Israel and the United Nations trading blame for vital aid supplies failing to reach those in need.
After the detection of poliovirus in Gaza sewage, though no individual cases, the World Health Organization said there were "monumental" constraints to mounting a timely response.
WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said Friday the agency believes many more diseases are "spreading out of control" inside Gaza.
The premier is due to address US lawmakers Wednesday in Washington, where he will be under pressure to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday a truce was within reach.
"I believe we're... driving toward the goal line in getting an agreement that would produce a ceasefire, get the hostages home, and put us on a better track to trying to build lasting peace and stability," he said.