Syria elections begin abroad
Syria’s presidential elections began Wednesday in Syrian embassies globally, including neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Only Syrians who left the country legally, not the millions of refugees who fled, will be eligible to vote.
On May 12, France closed its Syrian embassy in protest over the elections, a move that prevents Syrians there from voting, while pro-government media has also accused Germany and Belgium from seeking to “disrupt the presidential elections.” A total of 11 Arab nations as well as Turkey had previously closed their Syrian embassies and thus will not conduct elections, pan-Arab Lebanese newspaper Al Hayat reported.
Through more than three years of conflict, 2.8 million Syrians have fled the nation, the vast majority of them to neighboring Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Elections will take place inside Syria on June 3. Hassan a-Nouri and Maher al-Hajjar, the two candidates facing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, remain relative unknowns.
Pro-Damascus students carry a photo of Assad in Tartous province.
Photo courtesy of Tahrir Souri.
ISIS imposes curfew in a-Raqqa after car bomb
A car bombing Tuesday night appeared to target Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham fighters in the Lazourd hotel in Syria’s northern a-Raqqa province. The attack wounded an unconfirmed number of civilians and prompted the al-Qaeda splinter group to impose a curfew beginning at 10:30pm. They also arrested 10 fighters from other rebel groups, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory described the hotel as housing ISIS “members and their families.”
ISIS claimed that the car bomb “wounded 45, most of them women and children and a third of them in critical condition,” while the Observatory reported "dozens injured, most of them civilians." ISIS published photographs showing the destruction left by the car bombs and a child allegedly injured in the attack. ISIS has accused Jabhat a-Nusra of responsibility for the bombing. No group has officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Britain-based analyst Aymenn al-Tamimi suggested Wednesday it was “likely an underground insurgent group.”
Chemical inspectors safe after IED attack
A team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived safely back in Damascus Wednesday after being attacked en route to the Hama province town of Kafr Zeita to investigate claims of chlorine use.
“Shortly after leaving government-controlled territory, the lead vehicle in the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED), sustaining severe damage” on Tuesday, after which gunmen ambushed two remaining vehicles and briefly detained members of the convoy, the OPCW said in a statement Wednesday.
The OPCW, tasked with ensuring the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, announced on April 30 it would investigate allegations of chlorine attacks in Outer Damascus, Hama and Idlib provinces.
OPCW has 190 member states, and was founded in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention. The organization is autonomous, but has a “working relationship” with the UN, according to its mission statement.