A pro-Assad gunman holds a position at a military airport held by Syrian troops and pro-regime militias in the northeastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on December 12, five days after they repelled an attack by militants. AFP Photo
A pro-Assad gunman holds a position at a military airport held by Syrian troops and pro-regime militias in the northeastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor on December 12, five days after they repelled an aShow more

Rebels’ court in southern Syria an alliance of convenience against Assad

AMMAN // A tacit, frequently hidden and often uneasy relationship between western-backed rebels and Jabhat Al Nusra has been formalised in southern Syria with the establishment of a united judicial system involving both groups.
The recently opened House of Justice in Gharz, near Deraa, brings together judges chosen by moderate rebel factions — those drawing support from the West and Arabian Gulf states — with judges selected by Al Nusra and other Islamist factions such as Harakat Al Muthana.
The court has been hearing cases since last month, covering military, criminal and administrative law as well as reconciliation over disputes involving civilians and armed factions.
The creation of the court in late November comes as part of an intense contest for dominance on the southern front between moderates, sometimes still referred to as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and Al Nusra that has seen the groups alternating cooperation and conflict.
It also underscores the highly complex nature of conditions in Syria, a proxy war that has killed more than 200,000 people and drawn in regional and world powers into a mosaic of messy, often confused and mutating alliances.
US-led airstrikes in Syria since September have hit Al Nusra targets but, in the form of the new unified court, rebels who have been trained, armed and advised by the western and Arab Gulf-backed Military Operations Command in Amman are openly co-operating with Nusra in the south.
There are, however, indications that the court may already be faltering, with suggestions from some rebel sources that the MOC has been putting pressure on moderate groups to pull out. That information has not been confirmed and there has been no public announcement of withdrawal by rebel groups.
That increased cooperation — it falls far short of a truly unified military command but does involve joint arbitration of disputes — reflects a necessary pragmatism among moderates and Al Nusra alike, according to analysts and those involved in the House of Justice project, with both sides unable to decisively establish dominance over the other and compelled into an alliance of convenience in the fiercely fought war against forces loyal to president Bashar Al Assad on the southern front.
Overall the balance of power in the new court is evenly divided between moderates and extremists. Al Nusra is the second-largest single bloc after the FSA.
Half of the court's 16 judges were chosen by the Western and Gulf backed factions, according to rebels and civilian activists familiar with the new system. Al Nusra appointed four judges, with the remaining four selected by Al Muthana and Ahrar Al Sham, salafist groups positioned somewhere between the moderates and Al Qaeda.
"In Syria those who win victories, gain legitimacy. The FSA has made military gains in the latest battles. Although Nusra took part in these battles, the victories are not restricted to Nusra and therefore the FSA has regained its popularity " said Ahmad Abazid, a Syrian analyst from Deraa who monitors Islamist groups.
"In the end, too, Nusra is a powerful faction and they have had the most powerful court. So if there is going to be a mutual court, Nusra has to be a partner in it," he said
At least one of the Nusra judges is a non-Syrian, activists and rebels said, although exactly who the group's appointees are remains unclear because they use pseudonyms. Some senior Al Nusra figures in southern Syria are Jordanian and Iraqi militants.
"It is an independent legal entity that will provide justice," said Osama Al Bardani, a member of the rebel-operated, broadly moderate Deraa Governorate Council. "The court is accepted by civilians especially after years of injustice under Bashar Al Assad during which people's rights were lost in courts that were like a black market."
Key issues still need to be worked out, however, including the respective authorities of Deraa council, armed groups and the court itself. In a plan unveiled last month, moderates ultimately want to give civilians executive power over rebel factions and authority over a police force that will work with the court.
"We as a council bless the court and seek in the future, through our legal personnel, to regulate measures that would govern ties between the executive power, represented in the police stations that will be set up, and a court."
It also remains to be seen if the rebel groups involved in its creation will actually respect the power of the court. Powerful armed factions often ran roughshod over previous rebel-administered justice systems in southern Syria if they failed to get the ruling they wanted.
Since the House of Justice was created, the factions involved do appear to have largely honoured their commitments to grant it legal powers, including cases of criminal accusations against their own members.
Al Nusra has handed over 72 of its prisoners to the court, rebel commanders said. Moderate rebels also turned their detainees over to the unified court's administration, putting it in charge of sentencing and detention.
But three significant FSA figures, Col Ahmed Nehmeh, Zuhair Dabbo and Sharif Saffouri, detained this year by Al Nusrawere not among those handed over. Moderate rebel commanders said Al Nusra insisted it had transferred all of its living prisoners to the new court, suggesting Col Nehmeh and the other two men have been executed while in Al Nusra's custody.
The unified court's creation coincides with Al Nusra suffering a series of setbacks in the south just as moderate factions made gains against regime troops.
Al Nusra, playing a major role in key rebel victories, had previously been content to run its own, independent courts, in parallel with a court system under moderates' control.
That network of moderate and Al Nusra-run courts, operating for more than two years, was sometimes successful, and widely seen as less corrupt than the regime's legal system. But it was also flawed.
In practice, most of those courts ruled not simply according to a version of Sharia, but a flexible and locally accepted mixture of Islamic law, tribal custom and civil laws. It remains to be seen if the new court will govern according to a similar mix.
Moderate rebel commanders had sought to create a unified legal system with Al Nusra as the Al Qaeda-affiliated group grew in influence throughout 2012 and 2013, viewing it as an important way of preventing it from creating a monopoly over systems of governance in rebel-held areas of the south.

Our legal consultant

Name: Dr Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Name: Dooda Solutions
Based: Lebanon
Founder: Nada Ghanem
Sector: AgriTech
Total funding: $300,000 in equity-free funding
Number of employees: 11

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylturbo

Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic

Power: 242bhp

Torque: 370Nm

Price: Dh136,814


Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5

The biogs

Name: Zinah Madi

Occupation: Co-founder of Dots and links

Nationality: Syrian

Family: Married, Mother of Tala, 18, Sharif, 14, Kareem, 2

Favourite Quote: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.”


Name: Razan Nabulsi

Occupation: Co-founder of Dots and Links

Nationality: Jordanian

Family: Married, Mother of Yahya, 3.5

Favourite Quote: A Chinese proverb that says: “Be not afraid of moving slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

The specs

The specs: 2019 Audi Q8
Price, base: Dh315,000
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 340hp @ 3,500rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 2,250rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 6.7L / 100km

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

Company profile

Company name: Leap
Started: March 2021
Founders: Ziad Toqan and Jamil Khammu
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Funds raised: Undisclosed
Current number of staff: Seven

Brief scores:

Toss: South Africa, chose to field

Pakistan: 177 & 294

South Africa: 431 & 43-1

Man of the Match: Faf du Plessis (South Africa)

Series: South Africa lead three-match series 2-0

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

US federal gun reform since Sandy Hook

- April 17, 2013: A bipartisan-drafted bill to expand background checks and ban assault weapons fails in the Senate.

- July 2015: Bill to require background checks for all gun sales is introduced in House of Representatives. It is not brought to a vote.

- June 12, 2016: Orlando shooting. Barack Obama calls on Congress to renew law prohibiting sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

- October 1, 2017: Las Vegas shooting. US lawmakers call for banning bump-fire stocks, and some renew call for assault weapons ban.

- February 14, 2018: Seventeen pupils are killed and 17 are wounded during a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

- December 18, 2018: Donald Trump announces a ban on bump-fire stocks.

- August 2019: US House passes law expanding background checks. It is not brought to a vote in the Senate.

- April 11, 2022: Joe Biden announces measures to crack down on hard-to-trace 'ghost guns'.

- May 24, 2022: Nineteen children and two teachers are killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

- June 25, 2022: Joe Biden signs into law the first federal gun-control bill in decades.


6.30pm: The Madjani Stakes (PA) Group 3 Dh175,000 (Dirt) 1,900m

Winner: Aatebat Al Khalediah, Fernando Jara (jockey), Ali Rashid Al Raihe (trainer).

7.05pm: Maiden (TB) Dh165,000 (D) 1,400m

Winner: Down On Da Bayou, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer.

7.40pm: Maiden (TB) Dh165,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner: Dubai Avenue, Fernando Jara, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

8.15pm: Handicap (TB) Dh190,000 (D) 1,200m

Winner: My Catch, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: Dubai Creek Mile (TB) Listed Dh265,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner: Secret Ambition, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar.

9.25pm: Handicap (TB) Dh190,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner: Golden Goal, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

Sun jukebox

Rufus Thomas, Bear Cat (The Answer to Hound Dog) (1953)

This rip-off of Leiber/Stoller’s early rock stomper brought a lawsuit against Phillips and necessitated Presley’s premature sale to RCA.

Elvis Presley, Mystery Train (1955)

The B-side of Presley’s final single for Sun bops with a drummer-less groove.

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, Folsom Prison Blues (1955)

Originally recorded for Sun, Cash’s signature tune was performed for inmates of the titular prison 13 years later.

Carl Perkins, Blue Suede Shoes (1956)

Within a month of Sun’s February release Elvis had his version out on RCA.

Roy Orbison, Ooby Dooby (1956)

An essential piece of irreverent juvenilia from Orbison.

Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire (1957)

Lee’s trademark anthem is one of the era’s best-remembered – and best-selling – songs.

Company profile

Date started: January 2022
Founders: Omar Abu Innab, Silvia Eldawi, Walid Shihabi
Based: Dubai
Sector: PropTech / investment
Employees: 40
Stage: Seed
Investors: Multiple

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8


Arsenal 3
Aubameyang (28'), Welbeck (38', 81')
Red cards: El Neny (90'+3)

Southampton 2
Long (17'), Austin (73')
Red cards: Stephens (90'+2)


6.30pm Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 Group One (PA) US$65,000 (Dirt) 1,600m

Winner RB Money To Burn, Fabrice Veron (jockey), Eric Lemartinel (trainer).

7.05pm Handicap (TB) $175,000 (Turf) 1,200m

Winner Ekhtiyaar, Jim Crowley, Doug Watson.

7.40pm UAE 2000 Guineas Trial Conditions (TB) $100,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner Commanding, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

8.15pm Singspiel Stakes Group Two (TB) $250,000 (T) 1,800m

Winner Benbatl, Christophe Soumillon, Saeed bin Suroor.

8.50pm Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,600m

Winner Zakouski, William Buick, Charlie Appleby.

9.25pm Al Maktoum Challenge Round-1 Group Two (TB) $350,000 (D) 1,600m

Winner Kimbear, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson.

10pm Dubai Trophy Conditions (TB) $100,000 (T) 1,200m

Winner Platinum Star, Christophe Soumillon, Saeed bin Suroor.

10.35pm Handicap (TB) $135,000 (T) 1,600m

Winner Key Victory, James Doyle, Charlie Appleby.

The US Congress, explained

- US Congress is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives and Senate

- 435 members make up the House, and 100 in the Senate

- A party needs control of 218 seats to have a majority in the House

- In the Senate, a party needs to hold 51 seats for control

- In the event of a 50-50 split, the vice president's party retains power in the Senate

Company profile

Company name: Ogram
Started: 2017
Founders: Karim Kouatly and Shafiq Khartabil
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: On-demand staffing
Number of employees: 50
Funding: More than $4 million
Funding round: Series A
Investors: Global Ventures, Aditum and Oraseya Capital

Most Read
Top Videos