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Syria regime replaces notorious security chiefs guilty of war crimes

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not seen) in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency]

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad replaced a number of major security chiefs in the sectors of state security and military intelligence yesterday in an unexpected shake-up of his security apparatus.

Those replaced in the shift consist of major figures who became notorious in their brutality against the opposition in the Syrian conflict and made their names off the war crimes they committed, including Jamil Hassan who headed the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate since 2009. Hassan has been replaced by Major General Ghassan Ismail, who was his deputy.

Hassan has been one of the most prominent officers in the Syrian regime’s military and was dubbed “the father of barrels” due to his reputation of conducting extensive barrel bombings on opposition-held areas, among other war crimes. He was one of 13 Syrian commanders and prison officials that the US claimed a few years ago were responsible for attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure, as well as acts of torture. A statement by the US State Department said that Hassan is “notorious for his alleged involvement in the extensive use of torture in Syrian detention centres.”

To add to that, the US and the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on Hassan due to his role in the conflict, and in June last year, Germany issued an arrest warrant against the general for committing crimes against humanity after a complaint was filed by Syrian refugees residing in the country.

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There has been no particular reason stated for the shake-up in Al-Assad’s security apparatus and the replacement of the prominent figures, and the reports came from news organisations close to the regime, as the regime itself rarely issues official updates regarding changes in the positions of military and intelligence officials.

The reports do, however, come amid a significant slowdown in progress made by regime forces in the northwest of the country, which is in contrast to the rapid advances in recapturing territory from opposition groups that the forces achieved throughout the past few years. Since the beginning of May, the last opposition-held province of Idlib has been undergoing an air and ground assault against its southern areas and northern Hama by the regime with Russian backing, which has killed over 500 civilians so far.

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