US, UK Sanction 6 Syria-Linked Amphetamine Traffickers

The US Treasury Building in Washington, DC, USA, 13 March 2023. (EPA)
The US Treasury Building in Washington, DC, USA, 13 March 2023. (EPA)
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US, UK Sanction 6 Syria-Linked Amphetamine Traffickers

The US Treasury Building in Washington, DC, USA, 13 March 2023. (EPA)
The US Treasury Building in Washington, DC, USA, 13 March 2023. (EPA)

The US and UK on Tuesday slapped sanctions on four Syrians and two Lebanese involved in manufacturing and trafficking the amphetamine drug Captagon, the two governments said. The six include cousins of Syrian President Bashar Assad and notorious Lebanese drug lynchpins.

Experts say Captagon is primarily produced in Syria and Lebanon, where packages containing millions of pills are smuggled abroad. The trade allegedly has strong ties to Assad and his associates, as well as key ally, the Iran-backed Hezbollah group in neighboring Lebanon.

The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office statement announcing the sanctions said the Captagon industry is worth $57 billion to Assad, and has been a key source of revenue as Syria' uprising turned-conflict continues for a 13th year.

Assad's brutal crackdown on protests in 2011 led to his global isolation, and his forces were accused of rampant torture, bombing civilian infrastructure, and using chemical weapons with support of key allies Russia and Iran.

“Syria has become a global leader in the production of highly addictive Captagon, much of which is trafficked through Lebanon,” said the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control director Andrea M. Gacki in the statement.

Gacki added that the trade's revenues enable the government's “continued repression on the Syrian people.”

Among the four Syrians sanctioned are two cousins of Assad, Samer and Wassim. According to the US Treasury's statement, Samer oversees Captagon production in the northern coastal city of Latakia in coordination with Hezbollah and the Syrian army's elite Fourth Division. Meanwhile, Wassim has been described as a “key figure in the regional drug trafficking network,” while also leading a paramilitary group backing the Syrian army in the conflict.

Meanwhile, Syrian businessman Khalid Qaddour was also sanctioned for his alleged involvement in managing smuggling revenues and allegedly has close ties to President Assad's brother Maher, who leads the Fourth Division and has allegedly profited off smuggling illicit drugs, mobile phones and cigarettes.

Syrian militiaman Imad Abu Zureik was also sanctioned for running a militia group with ties to Syrian military intelligence in the south of the country that the US Treasury said controls the Nassib border crossing with Jordan. Abu Zureik was a former commander with Free Syria Army opposition forces.

In Lebanon, Washington and London sanctioned notorious weapons and drug smuggler Noah Zeiter, who for years has been on the run from Lebanese authorities. Zeiter prior to the conflict in Syria was known for producing and smuggling large amounts of cannabis and made occasional bombastic media appearances. Zeiter is close with Hezbollah and Syria's Fourth Division.

Hassan Daqqou, a Lebanese-Syrian, who the media frequently dubs “The King of Captagon,” was also sanctioned due to his links with Hezbollah and drug trafficking operations by the Syrian army's Fourth Division. Daqqou was arrested in Lebanon in 2021 and in 2022 was sentenced to seven years of hard labor for producing and smuggling Captagon.

Washington and London also sanctioned two trading companies based in eastern Lebanon that Daqqou owns.



Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
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Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS

Israeli forces pounded areas in the central Gaza Strip overnight, killing three people and wounding dozens of others, according to medics, while tanks deepened their invasion into Rafah in the south, residents said.
Israeli planes struck a house in Al-Nuseirat camp, killing two people and wounding 12 others, while tanks shelled areas in Al-Maghazi and Al-Bureij camps, wounding many other people, health officials said, according to Reuters. Nuseirat, Maghazi, and Bureij are three of Gaza's eight historic refugee camps.
In Deir al-Balah, a city packed with displaced people in the central Gaza Strip, an Israeli airstrike killed one Palestinian and wounded several others on Thursday, medics said.
The Israeli military said on Wednesday forces were continuing their operations across the enclave targeting militants and military infrastructure in what it described as "precise, intelligence-based" activities.
More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel's advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to storm: Rafah on Gaza's southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the center. The operations have forced more than a million people to flee since May, the vast majority already displaced from other parts of the enclave.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli tanks stationed deep in the western and central areas of the city stepped up bombardment, forcing more families living in the far coastal areas to flee northward. Some residents said the pace of the raid has been accelerated in the past two days.
"The tanks took control of most of the areas in Rafah. People living by the beach have also started to leave toward Khan Younis and central areas in fear because of the continued bombardment," said Abu Wasim, a resident from Rafah's Al-Shaboura neighborhood, who quit his home over a week ago before tanks rolled in reaching the heart of the city.
Rafah housed over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people until May 7 when Israeli forces began the ground offensive into the city. Fewer than 100,000 are now believed to be left behind.
There has been no sign of let-up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters battled Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities freed 33 Palestinians who had been detained during the past months by Israeli forces in different areas of the enclave. The freed detainees were admitted into Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip after they complained of torture and mistreatment by Israeli jailers.