Syria Deeply: News Deeply launches Women’s Advancement Deeply

Dear Syria Deeply community,
Because of your interest in our other News Deeply coverage, we want to share with you the launch of our newest platform, Women’s Advancement Deeply, which will cover the pursuit of economic equality for women, from securing gender-equal access to financial services to fighting for property rights and closing the pay gap. You can sign up for our newsletter here and also follow us on Twitter.

Since May 2016, we have covered issues affecting women and girls in the developing world and, as of today, the existing Women & Girls page will be archived and remain available for reference and exploration.

We’ll be working to launch other dedicated platforms in this space, and are currently exploring themes of maternal, sexual and reproductive health, as well as gender-based violence. If these topics are of interest to you, please email us – we would love your input as we scope new initiatives.

Women’s Advancement Deeply will take on the big questions about why the economic gender gap persists. We’ll provide a hub where those working to advance women’s rights can come together to understand the latest research in the field, share solutions that are working on the ground and learn how using a gender lens can help governments and investors make better decisions about how to spend their money.

We’ll combine specialist on-the-ground reporting with insights from our community of experts to help our readers understand what is, and what isn’t, working to make women’s economic advancement a reality.

To learn more about the launch and our coverage in 2018, please join us on Thursday, January 25, at 11:00 a.m. ET, for a 30-minute conversation with managing editor Megan Clement and senior editor Jumana Farouky on some of the crucial issues we’ll dig into in 2018, including the social, political and cultural barriers women and girls face in securing full economic equality. Our CEO and executive editor Lara Setrakian will join the call from the World Economic Forum in Davos, providing a look back at the biggest discussions of the week with a focus on gender. Register here.

If you are an expert on women’s economic advancement and would like to contribute to our coverage and help shape the platform, please complete this form. We look forward to working with you.
Warm regards,

Lara Setrakian
News Deeply CEO

Megan Clement
Women’s Advancement Deeply Managing Editor

Jihii Jolly
Women’s Advancement Deeply Community Editor

Visit Women’s Advancement Deeply
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Syria Deeply: The changing role of women in Syria, escalation in de-escalation zones and tension rising on Syria-Turkish border

 

Jan. 16th, 2018

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Syria Deeply’s weekly summary of our top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

Syria’s future is female: Syria Deeply and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) partnered to create Syria’s Women: Policies and Perspectives, a project that aimed to challenge stereotypes and generalizations about the impact of war on Syrian women and their role in the country’s future.

We provided new perspectives on the role of Syrian women in education, peacebuilding, media, preserving cultural heritage, politics and the economy. We also covered underreported issues related to violence against women and barriers to women’s advancement to foster a nuanced and comprehensive understanding among the public and policymakers working to change these realities.

Join us on Thursday January 18 at 10:30 a.m. EST, as Syria Deeply hosts a live conversation with Marvin Gate, founder of Humans of Syria, Anna Lekas Miller, journalist and contributor to our series, Yisser Bittar from the Karam Foundation, and Hassan Hassan, senior fellow at TIMEP, about the changing role of women in the humanitarian, media and public sector and the future challenges women face in having a voice in traditionally male-dominated fields.

To RSVP and to receive dial-in instructions click here. If you’d like to ask our editor or guests a question, please email our community editor Kim Bode (kim@newsdeeply.com) or tweet us at @SyriaDeeply or @TimepDC with the hashtags #SyrianWomen and #DeeplyTalks.

Escalation in de-escalation zones: Aerial bombardment and ground clashes continued this week in the northwestern province of Idlib and the Eastern Ghouta region of the Damascus suburbs – two areas designated de-escalation zones.

Pro-government forces advanced toward the strategic Abu Zuhour military airport in southern Idlib over the weekend. On Monday the Syrian pro-government al-Watan newspaper said the Syrian army and its allies were “encircling” the airbase.

Fighting and increased Syrian and Russian airstrikes in Idlib in recent weeks have already forced at least 100,000 civilians to flee, according to the United Nations.

Airstrikes, missiles and shelling targeted the Eastern Ghouta at least 250 times on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The monitoring group said that at least 195 civilians have been killed in aerial bombardments in the area since December 29. Last week, the U.N. put the death toll in Eastern Ghouta at 85 civilians since the start of the year, and on Sunday UNICEF said at least 30 children have died in that time.

Tensions rise on Turkey-Syria border: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Monday that an operation against the Kurdish-controlled northwestern Syrian cities of Afrin and Manbij might start at any moment, according to Turkish state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency (AA).

“Our preparations are finalized, an operation may start at any moment,” Erdogan said, adding that “then, the turn will come for other regions.”

AA also reported that Turkey has recently deployed reinforcements to support Turkish forces already stationed along Syria’s border.

Erdogan has threatened a military operation in Afrin before, but this latest announcement comes amid reports that the United States-led coalition plans to train Kurdish and Arab fighters in the area to become a Border Security Force (BSF). The force will operate under the leadership of the Kurdish-dominant Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

“Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told the Defense Post.

Turkey, Russia and Syria denounced Washington’s plan, and the latter called it “a blatant encroachment upon the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria.”

 

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

 

 

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Life Under Siege: How People Struggle to Survive in Eastern Ghouta

With limited access to food, medicine and fuel, the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the eastern suburbs of Damascus have developed a wide range of strategies to get through the government’s tightening siege.

 

RELIGIOUS & ETHNIC GROUPS

The Fate of Minorities in Post-ISIS Syria and Iraq

The ability of Syria and Iraq’s minorities to rebuild their communities in the post-ISIS landscape will depend very much on the political situation in these countries, according to analyst Yousif Kalian.

 

 

EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Critical Patients in Eastern Ghouta Used as ‘Bargaining Chips’: SAMS

DR. Ahmad Tarakji,  President, Syrian American Medical Society

 

The Syrian government recently allowed only 29 of 600 critically ill patients in Eastern Ghouta to be evacuated in a prisoner exchange. It’s the latest example of the regime using a humanitarian situation as a bargaining chip, writes SAMSpresident Dr. Ahmad Tarakji.

 

 

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.

 

 

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Copyright © 2017 News Deeply, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Syria Deeply: The year ahead for Syria, and updates on the recent offensives in Idlib and Eastern Ghouta

 

Jan. 9th, 2018

 

 

 

 

Syria Deeply wishes you a happy new year and welcomes you to our weekly summary of top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

The Year Ahead: As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation with Faysal Itani, resident senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East of the Atlantic Council. We’ll take a closer look at some of the crucial issues we’ll dig into in 2018, including reconciliation and de-escalation, development and reconstruction, and continued military conflicts across the country. To RSVP and to receive dial-in instructions, click here. To submit questions for our editors or guests, email our community editor Kim Bode  or tweet us @SyriaDeeply with the hashtag #DEEPLYTALKS.

In preparation for this look ahead on Syria coverage, we’ve compiled our best coverage of the biggest issues in Syria this year – from safe zones and increasing foreign involvement to new avenues for pursuing justice, and the impact of Syria’s war economy. Find the complete list here.

Eastern Ghouta: Aerial bombardments and clashes between forces on the ground are ongoing in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, where the U.N. recently estimated that 393,000 people are living under siege.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Monday that at least 190 airstrikes, missiles and shells targeted Eastern Ghouta on Sunday, bringing the death toll from the escalated campaign in the area to 103 people, including 24 children and 23 women since December 29.

On Saturday, at least 17 civilians were killed in Syrian government and Russian airstrikes on the towns of Madira, Erbin and Hammuriyeh. On Wednesday, more than 20 people, including 18 civilians, were killed in heavy government shelling and airstrikes on the besieged town of Mesraba. The previous day, at least 30 airstrikes hit different parts of the besieged suburbs, killing at least five civilians.

Pro-government forces on Sunday launched an attack on a military vehicles administration base in the suburb of Harasta, where around 200 Syrian troops are believed to have been besieged by rebels belonging mainly to Ahrar al-Sham. The offensive came a week after rebels widened their control over the facility, trapping pro-government fighters inside.

Idlib: Pro-government forces are also pushing deeper into Idlib, the last province in Syria under complete opposition control and a designated a de-escalation zone.

After driving insurgent rebels, including the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, from around 10 towns and villages in Idlib’s southeastern countryside on Thursday, Syrian troops and allied forces captured another 14 villages on Monday, the Associated Press reported.

The new push comes a day after the Syrian army said it had captured the strategic town of Sinjar in eastern Idlib, which could be used to launch future operations in the Idlib countryside, according to SOHR. The advance also brought pro-government forces closer to the Abu Zuhour air base, which rebels captured in 2015.

Russian and Syrian government warplanes have been supporting the ground offensive, which has led to dozens of civilian casualties. Airstrikes and shelling killed at least 21 people since Sunday, according to SOHR. On Thursday, airstrikes in Idlib killed at least 19 civilians. Last Tuesday, airstrikes on the town of Khan Subul in central Idlib killed at least seven people, including five children and two women. On Thursday, airstrikes in Idlib killed at least 19 civilians.

Aerial bombardment of the Idlib countryside was ongoing on Tuesday, SOHR reported.

 

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

 

 

MOST POPULAR

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WAR ECONOMY

In Homs, Assad Accused of Using Military for Urban Planning Scheme

Urban activists and residents in Syria’s third-largest city say Assad’s forces have intentionally destroyed traditional buildings in the city center, but not for military reasons – the driving force is a controversial urban planning scheme called ‘Homs Dream.’

 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Must-Read Coverage on Syria From 2017

We’ve compiled our best coverage of the biggest issues in Syria this year – from safe zones and increasing foreign involvement to new avenues for pursuing justice, and the impact of Syria’s war economy.

 

HEALTH

The Syrian Doctor Building an Underground Hospital for Women and Girls

With Syria’s healthcare system crippled by conflict, women and children are dying from treatable illnesses. One doctor and his team are providing them safe, dedicated medical care by building hospitals below ground, out of the reach of airstrikes.

 

 

EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

 

COMMUNITY

Analysis: What Lies Ahead for Syria in 2018

Fabrice Balanche,  Syria Expert and a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution

 

The coming year in Syria will likely be marked by reconciliation deals, partial economic recovery and, ultimately, Assad continuing to hold power in the country, according to Syria expert Fabrice Balance.

 

DISPLACEMENT

A Timeline of the Tightening Siege in Eastern Ghouta

Aron Lund,  Freelance Journalist and Analyst Specializing in Syria

 

Despite the de-escalation deal, a ban on humanitarian aid in Eastern Ghouta, where 94 percent of besieged civilians in Syria reside, has created a man-made disaster, writes Syria expert Aron Lund.

 

 

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

You received this email because you’re signed up to receive updates from us. Click here to unsubscribe.

Copyright © 2017 News Deeply, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Syria Deeply: Thank You and Happy New Year

As 2017 draws to a close, all of us at News Deeply would like to thank you for being part of our powerful, growing community and for recognizing the importance of great journalism.

Your attention, contributions and intelligent, thoughtful feedback have inspired and guided us throughout the past year. Here are just a few examples of work contributed by our community members in 2017 (including selections from our newest platforms, Oceans Deeply and Malnutrition Deeply):

In 2018, expect to hear from us as we experiment with new ways to deliver information, share insights from across our communities and help you accomplish your vital work more effectively.

We look forward to your participation and partnership, and to the results we’ll achieve together.

Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year.

The News Deeply Team

P.S. In case you need something extra to read over the holidays, here are a few more of our favorite and most-read pieces from 2017. 

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Syrian Network for Human Rights: The Syrian Regime Has Dropped Nearly 70,000 Barrel Bombs on Syria

The Ruthless Bombing

The Syrian Regime Has Dropped Nearly 70,000 Barrel Bombs on Syria

SNHR has released a report entitled: “The Ruthless Bombing” which documents that Syrian regime forces has dropped nearly 70,000 barrel bombs since July 2012.

The report says that the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime army manifest one of the most appalling ways in which the international community has blatantly let down the Syrian people as these barrel bombs have been forgotten almost completely in the last year with no condemnations to be heard about the repeated use of this barbarian type of weapons. Additionally, the report questions the possibility of accepting a regime that drops barbarian barrels on its own country without agreeing to any form of political settlements, except for one that rehabilitees it and only leads to giving some ceremonial ministries to its opponents.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of SNHR, says:
“The repeated use of this arbitrary, indiscriminate weapon against residential communities is a message to the Syrian people that protecting civilians and the international law are mere illusions, and that you have to submit and accept the regime that is killing you. Security Council has to take decisive action against the Syrian regime’s use of arbitrary weapon on this large, widespread scale. The U.N. special envoy has also to play a more effectual role in putting an end to the winter of barrel bombs in Syria.”

The report documents the toll of barrel bomb use by Syrian regime forces from the first time it was used in July 2012 until December 2017 and the resultant casualties and attacks on vital civilian facilities. The report stresses that the use of barrel bombs haven’t stopped for even one month, including the months that saw de-escalation agreements or Geneva Talks.

The report draws upon the daily, ongoing, routine monitoring and documentation efforts, in addition to accounts by survivors, eyewitnesses, and local media activists as the report contains nine accounts. Also, the report relies on videos and pictures that were posted online.

The report sheds light on the nature of barrel bombs, manufacture methods used by the Syrian regime, types of containers and explosive materials, and whatever chemical or incendiary substances that are added in some cases. Also, the report outlines a number of areas where the Syrian regime used barrel bombs heavily in the context of military progression such as Darayya city and Khan al Sheih town in Damascus suburbs, and al Mayadeen city in Deir Ez-Zour.

The report records that no less than 68,334 barrel bombs have been dropped by Syrian regime helicopters or fixed-wing warplanes from its first documented use in July 2012 until December 2017. These barrel bombs have resulted in the killing of 10,763 civilians, including 1,734 children and 1,689 women (adult female). In addition, no less than 565 attacks on vital civilian facilities were recorded in which barrel bombs were used, including 76 on medical facilities, 140 on schools, 160 on mosques, and 50 on markets.

According to the report, the governorates that saw the largest portion of barrel bombs were Damascus and its suburbs, followed by Aleppo and then Daraa while barrel bombs were used the most in 2015 where Syrian regime forces dropped 17,318 barrel bombs in that year alone.

The report says that Security Council resolution 2139 represented some hope for the Syrian people due to the fact that barrel bombs were explicitly mentioned in that resolution which also promised to take further steps in the case of non-compliance. However, the rate of barrel bomb use, according to the report, never changed after the resolution was adopted. The report divides the overall toll of barrel bombs before and after the resolution as the report records no less than 20,183 barrel bombs since from July 2012 to February 22, 2014, when the resolution was adopted, while no less than 48,151 barrel bombs were documented in the period of time from the resolution was adopted until December 2017.

According to the report, 87 attacks with barrel bombs loaded with a poison gas and four attacks with barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions were recorded. All of these attacks took place after Security Council resolution 2139 was adopted.

The report stresses that the Syrian government has, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254, and used barrel bombs in a systematic, widespread manner. Also, the Syrian government, through the crime of willful killing, has violated Article 7 of Rome Statute as well as the rules of the international human rights law, which guarantee the right to life. Seeing that these crimes were committed in a non-international armed conflict, it constitutes war crimes.

The report adds that barrel bomb attacks are an indiscriminate bombing that targeted defenseless civilians and caused significant damages to civilian objects. The damage was too excessive compared to the anticipated military benefit.

According to the report, The Syrian regime has violated the rules of the customary international law, the CWC, and all relevant Security Council resolutions -particularly 2118, 2209, and 2235- through the use of barrel bombs. Additionally, using chemical weapons constitutes a war crime according to the ICC’s Rome Statue.

Furthermore, the report says that Syrian regime forces have used barrel bombs loaded with incendiary ammunitions against populated residential neighborhoods without taking any measures to reduce the damages to civilians and civilian buildings and facilities.

The report calls on the Security Council to ensure the serious implementation of its resolutions, and calls on the four permanent state members to apply pressure on the Russian government in order to cease its support for the Syrian regime. In addition, the report stresses that an arms embargo should be imposed on the Syrian regime and all those who supply the Syrian regime with finance and weapon should be prosecuted in light of the risk of these weapons being used in crimes and serious violations of human rights.

Also, the report calls on the Security Council to refer the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court and provide all possible facilitations in this regard. Additionally, the report says that the Security Council should start imposing security and peace and Syria and prosecute all those whose involvement in perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity should be prosecuted. The report calls on the European Union and the United States to support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism that was established in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 71/248, adopted on December 21, 2016, establish local tribunals that enjoy a universal jurisdiction, and address the war crimes that were perpetrated in Syria.

The report says that steps should be taken on the national and regional levels to form alliances to support and protect the Syrian people from the daily killing. In addition, steps should be taken to put the principle of universal jurisdiction into practice with regard to these crimes before local tribunals. Moreover, the report says that pressure should be applied on the Syrian government in order to compel it to ratify Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and comply with its restrictions.

The report calls for the implementation of the “Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) norm especially after all political steps had been consumed through the agreement of the Arab League and then Kofi Annan’s plan and the Cessation of Hostilities statements and Astana Agreements that followed. Therefore, steps under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations should be taken, and the norm of the Responsibility to Protect, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly, should be implemented. The Security Council is still hindering the protection of civilians in Syria.

Syria Deeply: Join Our Deeply Talks: Diplomacy and Deadlock in Syria

Dear Syria Deeply community,

Peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva are expected to end next week, just days before Russian-sponsored negotiations in the Kazakh capital of Astana are scheduled to kick off December 21.

In our upcoming Deeply Talks, we’ll take a closer look at the recent flurry of diplomacy, and explore prospects and challenges of a settlement for Syria ahead of Russia’s proposed Syrian National Congress, which is slated to be held in the city of Sochi in early 2018. You can catch up on the latest developments in our daily Executive Summaries.

Join us Thursday, December 14, at 10:30 a.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. CET), for a conversation with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and Maxim Suchkov, editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage.

The 30-minute call, moderated by Syria Deeply’s deputy managing editor, Hashem Osseiran, will examine the motives underlying Moscow’s diplomatic efforts; Washington’s position toward Russian-sponsored peace efforts; and whether a resolution to the war is in sight.

To RSVP and receive dial-in instructions click here.

If you’d like to ask our editor or guests a question in advance, please respond to this email.

Warm regards,

Kim Bode

Community Editor

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Syria Deeply: Diplomacy and deadlock in Syria; Moscow declares end of ISIS and partial withdrawal of Russian forces

Syria Deeply
Dec. 12th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to Syria Deeply’s weekly summary of the top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation with Rami Khouri, senior public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and Maxim Suchkov, editor of Al-Monitor’s Russia-Mideast coverage, about the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions that aims to set the stage for a settlement to the near seven-year conflict. To RSVP and to receive dial-in instructions, click here. To submit questions for our editors or guests, email our community editor Kim Bode (kim@newsdeeply.com) or tweet us @SyriaDeeply with the hashtag #DEEPLYTALKS.

Peace Talks: The Syrian government’s delegation returned to Geneva on Sunday to rejoin United Nations-sponsored peace talks, just a day before Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry announced that a new round of negotiations in Astana is scheduled to start next week.

Two-day talks in the Kazakh capital are expected to begin December 21, days after U.N.-sponsored discussions in Geneva are expected to end. The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, previously said talks in the Swiss city would run until December 15, but as of Tuesday it remained unclear how long negotiations will continue.

The lead negotiator in the government’s delegation to Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, quit negotiations more than a week ago, and said that there would “be no progress” as long as the opposition did not reverse its call for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad before the start of a political transition.

As they have in previous rounds of Astana negotiations, representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey are expected to attend the talks later this month. However, Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Haidar Mansour Hadi, said on Tuesday that Baghdad would also like an invitation to Astana, according to Russian TASS news.

“I want to ask the Russian leadership to invite Iraq to attend the talks in Astana,” Hadi said in a meeting with Russian politician Konstantin Kosachev.

Putin’s Promises: President Vladimir Putin said he ordered a “significant part” of Moscow’s troops to begin their withdrawal from Syria on Monday, during a surprise visit to Russia’s Hmeimim air base near the coastal Syrian province of Latakia.

“The conditions for a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations have been created,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “Friends, the Motherland is waiting for you. You are coming back home with victory,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Russia’s commander in Syria, Gen. Sergei Surovikin, said Moscow will withdraw “23 warplanes, two helicopter gunships, special forces units, military police and field engineers.” He did not specify how many soldiers and weapons would remain, but said it would be enough to “successfully fulfill the tasks” of stabilizing the situation in Syria, according to the Associated Press.

Putin has previously made similar statements but they did not result in a major or permanent withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria.

Moscow’s decision comes days after it declared the complete defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Syria. “There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of [ISIS]. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organization,” senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi told reporters.

Syria Deeply has not been able to independently confirm the absence of ISIS in every “single village or district” in the country.

Read our Daily Executive Summaries

f020b569-7455-410e-8ef8-f41b0077a844.png MOST POPULAR

This Week’s Top Articles

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ARTS & CULTURE

Women at the Forefront of Saving Syria’s Heritage

Syrian women at home and abroad are leading efforts to safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage and ensure that traditions are preserved in the wake of years of conflict and widespread displacement.

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WAR ECONOMY

Eyes on Damascus: Exchange Rates, Financial Restrictions and Subsidized Fuel

As the Syrian government and foreign powers look to wind down the war in Syria, we are closely monitoring developments on the ground in the capital for our monthly report from Damascus.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave

The route from Turkey to Greece was once crowded with Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. But in recent months some refugees have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries.

973ab3c3-9b8d-4a6d-9ac8-50621f4257fe.png EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Conversations: Life as a Paramedic During ISIS’ Rule of Raqqa

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Youmna al-Dimashqi,  Independent Syrian Freelance Journalist

For medical professionals in ISIS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, trying to save lives meant risking shelling, airstrikes and arrest.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Syria’s Largest Militant Alliance Steps Further Away From al-Qaida

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Mona Alami,  Nonresident Fellow, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Alliance is distancing itself from hard-line al-Qaida loyalists in its latest attempt to reinvent itself as a pragmatic local player among the opposition, writes Levant researcher and journalist Mona Alami.

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DISPLACEMENT

A Nation in Pieces: Views From Syrians in Exile

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Sima Ghaddar,  Contributor, The Century Foundation

Syrians living in Lebanon, Europe and the U.S. reveal a common conviction that national unity and a common sense of identity are necessary to rebuild the country, but most say that both seem distant in a country divided along ethnic-sectarian lines.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Syria Deeply: Walk-outs in Geneva, Israel strikes near Damascus, and ‘catastrophe’ in Eastern Ghouta

Syria Deeply
Dec. 5th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live call next week, examining the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions aimed at setting the stage for a settlement to the nearly seven-year conflict. Keep an eye on your inbox this week for the invitation. 

Peace talks: The eighth round of peace talks opened in Geneva last Tuesday, and by Friday, the Syrian government delegation had quit, saying they would not return without a change in the opposition’s stance toward President Bashar al-Assad.

Chief government negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said there would be “no progress” as long as the opposition did not reverse its call for the removal of Assad before the start of a political transition. The opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) adopted this position two weeks ago during their own talks in Saudi Arabia, where they had hoped to form a stronger, more unified front before heading to Geneva.

In a televised interview with the pro-government al-Mayadeen TV, Jaafari later said the government would not engage seriously in peace talks if the statement was not revoked, and said the decision on whether or not to resume negotiations this week was in Damascus’ hands.

The previous day, U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that negotiations could run until December 15.

Israel strikes Syria: Israel again threatened Syria over Iran’s presence in the country, saying it would not tolerate Iran-backed forces along its border.

Israel fired missiles toward Damascus on Saturday, reportedly targeting a military site near the capital, according to CNN. Syria’s air defense system intercepted two Israeli surface-to-surface missiles but others caused material damage to the military position, according to state-run SANA news agency.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted an arms depot near al-Kiswa town south of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army, Lebanese Hezbollah or other Iran-backed forces operated the warehouse.

“Let me reiterate Israel’s policy,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Saban Forum, an annual gathering of American and Israeli leaders in Washington hosted by the Brookings Institution.

“We will not allow that regime [Iran] to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.”

Damascus suburbs: Despite being a so-called de-escalation zone, the Eastern Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs has been under heavy bombardment for more than 20 days. At least 192 people, including 43 children, 21 women and four members of the Civil Defense, have been killed since November 14, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“There has been massive loss of life – hundreds and hundreds have been wounded,” special United Nations humanitarian adviser for Syria, Jan Egeland, said, describing the situation as a “catastrophe.”

“In general, there is no calm in this de-escalation zone. There is only escalation in this de-escalation zone,” Egeland said.

Amnesty International claimed the Syrian government used Soviet-made cluster munitions – which 100 countries have banned – in the Eastern Ghouta, killing at least 10 civilians since November 14.

What’s more, a crippling siege has left as many as 400,000 people trapped in the rebel-held area without access to health and basic living necessities.

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

A War Within a War: Chechnya’s Expanding Role in Syria

Over the past year, Chechnya significantly expanded its role and foothold in Syria, including funding the reconstruction of major Syrian mosques and deploying highly trained Chechen military forces to some of the toughest front lines.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Opposition Media Activists Face Uncertain Future

The war in Syria significantly increased the number of so-called opposition media activists who documented alleged human rights abuses and war crimes. But as pro-government forces regain control of rebel-held territory, they fear for their future.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave

The route from Turkey to Greece was once crowded with Syrian asylum seekers fleeing to Europe. But in recent months some refugees have begun to move in the opposite direction because of what they describe as a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in host countries.

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Community Insight

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WAR ECONOMY

Ten Experts to Watch on Reconstruction in Syria

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Mel Plant,  Freelance Journalist Currently

From infrastructure and urban planning to funding and democratic dialogue, in this next installment of our “Experts to Watch” series we highlight 10 experts who focus on the different aspects of reconstruction in Syria.

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

The Troubling Triumvirate Ruling Over Aleppo

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Khaled Al-Khateb,  Journalist and Former lecturer, University of Aleppo

Almost one year after rebels retreated from Aleppo, the northern Syrian city is now at the mercy of security services, pro-government militias and the Baath party, who are doing little to improve living conditions, writes Syrian journalist Khaled Al-Khateb.

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WAR ECONOMY

Analysis: No Funds to Foot Syria’s Reconstruction Bill

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Mia Bennett,  Journalist, Specializes in Covering Syrian Economic Affairs

Although the drive to reconstruct Syria has gained momentum in recent months, the government does not have the funds or strategy to lead the recovery process, writes Syrian journalist Jihad Yazigi.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

For our readers in New York, please join us December 6 for News Deeply’s event Advancing Civilian Protection: Human Rights in Times of Upheaval or share this with friends and colleagues in the area.

Syria Deeply: A roundup of what you need to know about the recent flurry of diplomatic discussions on Syria and upcoming political negotiations

Syria Deeply
Nov. 24th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.

This week saw an unprecedented amount of diplomatic discussions aimed at setting the stage for a settlement to the nearly seven-year conflict in Syria. The uptick came ahead of the eighth round of talks in Geneva and the first Russia, Iran and Turkey-sponsored all-Syria congress aimed at bringing together representatives from the Syrian opposition, government and civil society.

We’ve rounded up what you need to know about Wednesday’s simultaneous but separate meetings between Moscow, Tehran and Ankara in Sochi and the Syrian opposition in Riyadh, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s discussions with several heads of state, including U.S. President Donald Trump, and the upcoming talks on Syria.

Assad Visits Russia: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met his Russian counterpart in the Black Sea resort in Sochi on Monday. Assad reportedly met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for three hours to discuss a possible settlement to the conflict in Syria.

“Regarding our joint operation to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is indeed coming to an end,” Putin said

Assad also spoke to Russian military generals during his surprise visit to Sochi. “I have conveyed to [Mr Putin], and on his behalf to the Russian people, our gratitude for Russia’s efforts to save our country,” Assad told the Russian generals. “In the name of the Syrian people, I greet you and thank you all, every Russian officer, fighter and pilot that took part in this war.”

The visit – believed to be the second time the Syrian president has left the country since the war began in 2011 – came just two days before the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Sochi to discuss settling the conflict in Syria. Moscow had reportedly previously assured Iranian and Turkish leaders that it would “work with the Syrian leadership” to ensure any forthcoming agreement “would be viable.”

Syria On The Line: Putin and Trump then discussed a political settlement for Syria in a phone call on Tuesday. Putin reportedly informed Trump of the “need to keep Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity intact,” according to Moscow’s statement. The two leaders reportedly stressed the importance of U.N.-led peace talks in resolving the Syrian conflict, according to a statement released by the White House. Putin also on Tuesday also discussed Syria with a number of other leaders, including Saudi king Salman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Reuters reported.

Trilateral Talks In Sochi: The presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey then met in the Russian resort town of Sochi on Wednesday to discuss a solution to the conflict in Syria.. Talks wrapped up on Wednesday evening with an agreement between the three countries’ leaders to hold an all-Syria congress aimed at “gathering delegates from various political parties, internal and external opposition, ethnic and confessional groups at the negotiating table,” Putin said.

“The militants in Syria have sustained a decisive blow and now there is a realistic chance to end the multi-year civil war,” Putin said, according to the Guardian.

An official source at Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told state-run news agency SANA that Damascus welcomed the final statement from Sochi, “in light of the Syrian Arab Republic’s commitment to support any political step that respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and contributes to sparing the blood of the Syrian people.”

The congress is expected to take place in early December and assemble 1,400 delegates from the regime, opposition, and civil society groups, Syria expert Sami Moubayed wrote in Gulf News. The opposition has yet to issue a statement about the Sochi agreement.

Opposition Meets In Riyadh: Parallel to the Sochi meeting, Syrian opposition representatives gathered for their own set of talks in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The opposition High Negotiation Committee (HNC) is hoping to form a stronger, more unified front ahead of the upcoming Syria peace talks in Geneva.

Wednesday’s meeting came two days after Riad Hijab, top HNC negotiation, announced his resignation, citing attempts to force the opposition to come to terms with Assad’s survival.

“With his resignation, Hijab preempted the Riyadh conference on Wednesday, which was planning to form a (new) HNC, elect a new head coordinator, and form a delegation to Geneva talks,” a senior opposition official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another Round In Geneva: The eighth round of Geneva talks is set to kick off November 28. U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura previously stated that this round of Syria talks in Switzerland will focus on drafting a new constitution that would eventually allow for U.N.-verified elections.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

The Fight – and Plight – of Syria’s Female Journalists

The rise of independent Syrian news outlets created more opportunities for women in the media, but many of Syria’s female journalists still face higher security risks than their male colleagues and rampant sexism in the workplace.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Unlearning ISIS: The Battle to Reclaim Hearts and Minds

As Islamic State continues to lose territory in its major strongholds in Syria, activists and civil society organizations are leading deradicalization efforts, hoping ultimately to erase the militants’ ideological legacy.

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Community Insight

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Children Will Continue to Die of Starvation in Besieged East Ghouta

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Maram Haddad,  Program Assistant, Physicians for Human Rights

Physicians for Human Rights program assistant Maram Haddad speaks to doctors and medical professionals in the Eastern Ghouta district outside Damascus about the devastating impact of the intentional use of siege and the lack of medical and food supplies in aid convoys.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

The Security Vacuum in Post-ISIS Deir Ezzor

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Nicholas A. Heras,  Middle East Security Fellow, Center for a New American Security

As ISIS pulls out of eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces will have to contend with stabilizing this territory. But without local allies, the security of SDF-held territory will be challenged, write journalist Omar Abu Layla and security expert Nicholas A.. Heras.

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WAR ECONOMY

Expert Views: After ISIS, Who Controls Syria’s Natural Resources?

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Alessandria Masi,  Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

Syria Deeply’s expert community weighed in on how the capture of resource-rich territory from ISIS in east Syria could affect competition to control the country’s gas and oil and how it could impact the parties fighting ISIS.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via email, Twitter or Facebook.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Universal Children’s Day – Syrian Children Need More Attention, Support from International Community

Syrian refugee children attend a lesson in a UNICEF temporary classroom in northern Lebanon, July 2014- Photo Credit DFID – UK Department for International Development

Universal Children’s Day: Syrian Children Need More Attention, Support from International Community

Today, November 20, the international community celebrates Universal Children’s Day, promoting the welfare of children. This day also marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and Convention of the Rights of a Child. In Syria, the legal principles enshrined in these international instruments have failed to protect the rights of millions of children and youth. Syria’s so-called “lost generation” – youth facing a pervasive lack of education, resources, and prospects for future success – remains in desperate need of greater international attention to ensure their immediate basic rights. Consideration is likewise needed in the transitional justice process to address pervasive rights violations and ensure their long-term security and prosperity.

Children are acutely vulnerable during conflicts, and the Syrian war has caused the country’s youth to suffer both immediate harm and severe long-term injury in developmental growth. Some of the most prevalent violations against Syrian children include:

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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Syria Deeply: Victory and loss in Deir Ezzor, plus Moscow and Washington’s agreements on Syria, and dire humanitarian conditions in Eastern Ghouta

Syria Deeply
Nov. 13th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

Victory and Loss in Deir Ezzor: After various claims of victory and days of intense clashes between pro-government forces and so-called Islamic State fighters in Deir Ezzor, ISIS apparently recaptured Boukamal, its last stronghold in Syria, on Saturday.

On Thursday, the Syrian government had declared victory over the militant group in Boukamal, but ISIS launched a counterattack just hours later. Fierce fighting ensued as ISIS “began surprise attacks with suicide bombers and rocket attacks after the Iranian militias were duped that Daesh had left the city,” Qahtan Ghanam al-Ali, a tribal leader, told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS..

By the weekend, reports said Iraqi militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah had retreated from Boukamal and were “1 to 2 km [0.6–1.2 miles] from the city limits,” Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), told Agence France-Presse.

Between Friday and Sunday at least 50 people, including 20 children, were killed in shelling and artillery bombardment in the countryside near Boukamal along the Euphrates river, the SOHR reported. Two camps for the internally displaced were among the targeted areas, according to AFP.

Diplomatic Response: Russia and the U.S. issued a joint presidential statement on Saturday affirming that there is “no military solution to the conflict in Syria” and reiterating their commitment to fighting ISIS.

U.S. president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin also “agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces,” the statement said.

The statement, which was released after Trump and Putin met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, said both presidents agreed that, ultimately, the solution to the conflict in Syria must be reached through the Geneva process.

Israel signaled that it would continue to strike Syria in an effort to push back advancing Iranian-backed militias from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. This comes alongside a separate agreement between Trump and Putin to expand a cease-fire in southwestern Syria, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Dire Situation in Eastern Ghouta: The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Sunday for immediate humanitarian access to the besieged Eastern Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs.

As many as 400,000 people are trapped in the rebel-held area without access to health and basic living necessities. More than 240 people need “urgent advanced medical care,” at least 29 of whom need medical evacuation, according to a statement from the United Nations health agency.

“The situation is heartbreaking,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria. “We have now reached a critical point, where the lives of hundreds of people, including many children, are at stake. If they do not immediately get the medical care they urgently need, they will most likely die.”

On Thursday, U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters in Geneva that 29 civilians, including 18 children, were at risk of imminent death. Seven others had already died, he said.

“I feel as if we are now returning to some of the bleakest days of this conflict again,” Egeland said. “Nowhere is it as bad as in Eastern Ghouta.”

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DISPLACEMENT

Back Home in Homs: Challenges Facing Returnees to Syria

For many Syrians displaced from Homs over six years of war, going home means facing a gap in public services, the absence of social and economic support systems and security risks. Many who have returned have found debris where their houses once stood.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Women at Forefront of Humanitarian Demining Efforts in Syria

The explosive remnants of war pose a long-term threat to reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts in Syria. Women, however, are playing a notably growing role as humanitarian groups shift their focus to land-mine clearing and risk education..

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Conversations: Fleeing ISIS Conscription in Deir Ezzor

When ISIS ordered the forced conscription of all men of fighting age in Deir Ezzor, Ali knew he had no other choice but to enlist a smuggler and escape the eastern province.

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Community Insight

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

What an ISIS Retreat in Boukamal Could Mean for the War in Syria

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Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

The Syrian government is trying to capture the last ISISstronghold in Syria. If it’s successful, it would be positioned for both a military and economic boost as it moves to secure a section of its frontier with Iraq, according to Fabrice Balanche of the Hoover Institution.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

Chemical Weapons Investigations in Syria Must Continue

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Rogelio Pfirter,  Argentine Diplomat

The U.N. Security Council’s failure to renew the inquiry into chemical weapons in Syria unjustly questions investigators’ important work, according to Rogelio Pfirter, former director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

FIRST LOOK

Upcoming coverage

We are always looking for new writers, experts and journalists who are covering the crisis in Syria and are interested in writing about a variety of topics. Please send us your ideas, story pitches and any other thoughts about our coverage via emailTwitter or Facebook.

Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: Ghouta Siege – UN Must Respond to Government-Sanctioned Starvation and Civilian Harm

SJAC Update | November 8, 2017
Children wait for a Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy delivery of food in besieged Eastern Ghouta. | Source: BBC Arabic

Ghouta Siege: UN Must Respond to Government-Sanctioned Starvation and Civilian Harm

In October, photos of severely malnourished children in Eastern Ghouta brought renewed international attention to the plight of an estimated 400,000 civilians trapped in the Damascus suburb. Residents have been pushed to the brink of famine after the government tightened its siege in March – blocking all trade and smuggling routes into the region and regularly barring United Nations aid convoys from delivering essential goods and services to civilians. The UN has clearly prescribed rules of siege warfare, and its continued refusal to act in the face of blatant violations and an urgent humanitarian crisis is putting hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians at imminent risk of death.

Since the beginning of the conflict, the Syrian government has used sieges to effectively isolate, contain, and drain rebel militias into submission without exhausting its diminishing military manpower, notably in the governorates of Homs and Damascus. Seeking a decisive victory this March over Eastern Ghouta – the last rebel-held enclave in the Damascus suburbs – government forces seized the network of smuggling tunnels connecting Ghouta to Damascus City and the al Wafideen crossing. These crossings were the main supply routes for Ghouta’s food and basic goods, and the resulting shortage has caused dramatic price surges on remaining supplies.

The government likewise continues to routinely block UN aid convoys access to Eastern Ghouta, despite a July de-escalation agreement between rebels and Moscow providing for the distribution of food and humanitarian assistance. Syrian forces allowed only 26 percent of requested UN aid to be to delivered in the area between January and September. This move further dwindled supplies and triggered inflation. Reports indicate residents have been forced to eat plants and grass to survive, while cases of malnutrition among children have nearly doubled in some areas. Residents have reportedly begun looting remaining food warehouses – a possible sign of growing desperation. In late October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the situation a humanitarian emergency and reminded all parties that deliberate starvation of civilians is a crime under international law. Briefing the Security Council, the UN Special Envoy to Syria likewise highlighted the lack of de-escalation and humanitarian access in Eastern Ghouta, stating that “those with influence” must work to enable the UN and its partners to deliver assistance by whatever modalities are available.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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Syria Deeply: Syria negotiations begin again amid intense fighting in Deir Ezzor and dire humanitarian conditions in the Damascus suburbs

Syria Deeply
Oct. 30th, 2017
This Week in Syria.

Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of the crisis in Syria.

For Syria Deeply’s ongoing feature, Expert Views, we’re gathering fresh insight and commentary from our expert community. This week, we will focus on how the capture of resource-rich territory from ISIS has altered the playing field for Syria’s oil and gas. We invite you to share your insights here.

Talks resume A fresh round of talks kicked off in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Monday. Delegations from the Syrian government and some armed opposition groups, as well as representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, were expected to attend the talks.

Talks in Astana are expected to focus on securing the four de-escalation zones, as well as hostage releases, aid deliveries to besieged areas and the fate of those missing in Syria, according to Al Jazeera.

Last week, United Nations special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura announced that the eighth round of Syria peace talks in Geneva are scheduled to begin on November 28.

De Mistura held talks with United States secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Thursday. Following the meeting, Tillerson told reporters: “The U.S. wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government … We do not believe that there is a future for the Assad regime and Assad family. The [family] reign is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should be brought about.”

Deir Ezzor casualties Dozens have been killed in fierce clashes between pro-government forces and the so-called Islamic State in Deir Ezzor over the weekend.

At least 50 ISIS militants and some 23 pro-government fighters have been killed in the 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday, after ISIS reportedly launched an attack in the provincial capital. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that fighting was ongoing on Monday, and had documented the deaths of at least seven civilians, but expected the death toll to rise.

Pro-regime forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, made strategic advances over the weekend, taking control of parts of al-Hamidiyah neighborhood. ISIS carried out counterattacks in the area overnight on Saturday, but pro-regime forces continued their advance, targeting the neighborhoods of Arfi and Ommal, SOHR reported on Monday.

The fierce fighting began after pro-government forces on Thursday seized the T2 oil pumping station west of the ISIS stronghold of Boukamal near the border with Iraq.

Shelling in Damascus suburbs Pro-regime shelling on the Saqba and Hamouriyah districts north of Damascus on Sunday killed at least 11 civilians, including two women, a child and a media activist.

The Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus are part of a designated de-escalation zone, but violence and siege conditions have persisted in the area nonetheless.

On Friday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein said at least 350,000 people were trapped in the area, calling on all parties to allow food and medicine deliveries. Earlier last week, UNICEF said that more than 1,100 children in the enclave are suffering from acute malnutrition.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Inside Rukban Camp, One of Syria’s Most Desperate Settlements

The situation in the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons near the border with Jordan is rapidly deteriorating. International humanitarian groups are close to being overwhelmed, despite local NGOs and rebel groups trying to help out as well.

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WAR ECONOMY

Eyes on Damascus: Electricity, Pharmacists, Siege and Sports

As the Syrian government and foreign powers look to wind down the war in Syria, we are closely monitoring developments on the ground in the capital for our monthly report from Damascus.

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OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Hostility Toward Militants Grows in Idlib as Turkey Deploys Troops

Residents of Syria’s Idlib province have welcomed Turkey’s latest cross-border campaign and many say they would side against HTS militants if a confrontation were to occur.

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Community Insight

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Analysis: What the Reconstruction of Raqqa Could Mean for Syria’s War

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Aron Lund,  Freelance Journalist and Analyst Specializing in Syria

After the dangerous process of demining Raqqa is completed, the question of who will govern and rebuild the city will become even more crucial and could impact the endgame of the war, writes Syria expert Aron Lund in IRIN News.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Washington’s Partner Problem in Syrian Battle Against ISIS

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Barak Barfi,  Research fellow, New America Foundation

Radicalization, attrition and defections mean only questionable partners remain for the U.S. government in the campaign against ISIS in Syria, warns New America Foundation fellow Barak Barfi.

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Syria Justice and Accountability Centre: The Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS Carries a Civilian Toll

SJAC Update | October 26, 2017
A bus convoy of ISIS fighters travels from the border of Lebanon to eastern Syria | Photo from Wochit News

The Whack-a-Mole Strategy Against ISIS Carries a Civilian Toll

In mid-October, the US military granted safe passage to hundreds of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants out of Raqqa – the group’s de facto capital –  pursuant an evacuation deal arranged by the city’s civil council and tribal elders. This sanctioned exodus is part of a string of deals, which allow members of the UN-designated terrorist organization to evade capture in exchange for the surrender of territory. Though the US military expressly premises the evacuations on the preservation of civilian life, these agreements have generally been executed only after ground battles and aerial bombardment inflict substantial damage to civilian life and property. Moreover, the evacuation agreements lack a consistent strategy for eradicating extremist militias and the root causes that led to their rise. To build the long-term peace and stability necessary to prevent ISIS’s return, it is imperative the US articulates and implements a strategy for Syria that prioritizes civilian protection and welfare.

The Raqqa evacuation deal, though widely hailed by media as a decisive victory against ISIS, led to several problematic outcomes. On October 14, the US-led Combined Joint Task Force against ISIS issued a press release stating that the evacuation agreement facilitates Raqqa’s liberation while minimizing civilian harm. While the deal did force militants into areas outside of the city, it appeared to have few (if any) conditions. In reality, the fighters simply moved to other ISIS strongholds in Deir ez-Zor province.

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The Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC) is a Syrian-led and multilaterally supported nonprofit that envisions a Syria where people live in a state defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law. SJAC collects, analyzes, and preserves human rights law violations by all parties in the conflict — creating a central repository to strengthen accountability and support transitional justice and peace-building efforts. SJAC also conducts research to better understand Syrian opinions and perspectives, provides expertise and resources, conducts awareness-raising activities, and contributes to the development of locally appropriate transitional justice and accountability mechanisms. Contact us at info@syriaaccountability.org.

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