Syria Watch

Syria Deeply: The latest developments on the situation in the Eastern Ghouta and the U.N. Security Council’s call for a 30-day cease-fire

 

Feb. 26th, 2018

 

 

 

 

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

Healthcare Under Attack: As part of our Deeply Talks series, Syria Deeply will host a live 30-minute conversation on Tuesday, February 27 at 12 pm ET, with Annie Sparrow, a critical-care pediatrician and public health professional, and Mohamad Katoub, a medical worker from Eastern Ghouta and advocacy manager for the Syrian Medical Society, about the deteriorating healthcare situation in Eastern Ghouta. To RSVP and receive dial-in instructions, click here. Submit questions for our editors or guests by responding to this email or tweet @SyriaDeeply using the hashtag #DeeplyTalks.

Increased attacks on the rebel-held enclave in the Eastern Ghouta have severely damaged the region’s already strained medical infrastructure. We invite you to read up on our recent interview with Annie Sparrow about the unprecedented pressures on healthcare facilities in Eastern Ghouta, and the repeated failure to deliver life-saving aid.

Eastern Ghouta: It has been one of the deadliest weeks in the opposition-held suburbs of Damascus, since Eastern Ghouta came under siege more than four years ago. Despite the United Nations Security Council resolution that passed on Saturday calling for a 30-day cease-fire to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations, at least 24 people were killed in attacks on the area in the since Sunday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Sunday’s casualties bring the total death toll to around 530 people killed since the government launched an intensified bombing campaign on the opposition enclave last week, according to Agence France-Presse, who cited the SOHR.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered a “humanitarian pause” in Eastern Ghouta, beginning on Tuesday that would only be in effect from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time daily, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced. Shoigu added that a “humanitarian corridor” would also be created to facilitate civilian evacuations from the area, but did not give any additional details on that process.

Afrin: Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” continued in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday despite the U.N. Security Council’s resolution for a 30-day nationwide cease-fire across Syria.

On Monday, Syrian state-run news and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that a Turkish airstrike in the village of Yalan Quz in Afrin killed at least five people. The Turkish army also reportedly captured three villages near the northern Syrian town from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and shelled Afrin on Sunday, the Associated Press reported, citing Turkey’s official news agency.

Ankara on Sunday said that the cease-fire would not affect operations against the YPG in Afrin, according to AFP.

“We welcome the resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council in response to the worsening humanitarian situation all across Syria, in particular in Eastern Ghouta,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement. But it added that Turkey “will remain resolute in fighting against the terrorist organizations that threaten the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria.”

 

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

Syrian Conflict’s Deadly Week in Eastern Ghouta

A look at the major developments of one of the deadliest weeks in the besieged Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta.

 

DISPLACEMENT

‘I Was Something She Bought’: Syrian Men Marry To Survive

Although much has been written about Syrian refugee women in Turkey being sold into marriage, little is known of the Syrian men selling themselves in wedlock. Two such refugees share their stories to shed light on what they say is a growing trend.

 

 

EDITOR’S PICKS

Community Insight

 

OPPOSITION GROUPS & REBEL FORCES

Braving Bombs, Health Workers Struggle to Save Lives in Eastern Ghouta

Areeb Ullah,  Journalist, Middle East Eye

 

The Syrian government has targeted a number of hospitals and medical clinics in East Ghouta recently, complicating attempts to provide life-saving care to the nearly 400,000 people trapped under bombardment, writes journalist Areeb Ullah.

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

Syria Deeply: Join Our Deeply Talks – The Humanitarian Catastrophe in East Ghouta

Dear Syria Deeply community,

Please join us on Tuesday, February 27, at 10:30 a.m. EDT (4:30 p.m. CET), for a 30-minute conversation with Dr. Annie Sparrow, a critical-care pediatrician and public health professional, and Dr. Mohamad Katoub, advocacy manager for the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), about the deteriorating healthcare situation in East Ghouta. The call will be moderated by Alessandria Masi, Syria Deeply’s managing editor, and Hashem Osseiran, deputy managing editor.

We will discuss the humanitarian implications of the ongoing government offensive, the international community’s response, and the feasibility of civilian evacuations in light of escalated attacks on opposition-held areas further north.

To RSVP and receive dial-in instructions, click here.

We invite you to read up on our recent interview with Dr. Annie Sparrow. And please send us your questions, as well as any comments you would like us to address in the discussion. You can respond to this email or tweet @SyriaDeeply using the hashtag #DeeplyTalks.

Warm regards,

Kim Bode
Community Editor

 

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Syria Deeply: Eastern Ghouta ‘spiraling out of control,’ and Turkey’s operation in Afrin grows increasingly complex

Syria Deeply
Feb. 20th, 2018
This Week in Syria.

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

Eastern Ghouta: After more than four years of siege, it’s hard to imagine that the situation in Eastern Ghouta could become even more dangerous and devastating. However, aerial bombardments have increased in the suburbs of Damascus, as the Syrian government allegedly prepares for a ground offensive on the besieged opposition-held enclave.

More than 100 people were killed in government attacks on the Eastern Ghouta on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The monitoring group added that this number was expected to rise as many of those injured remain in critical condition, but that it was already the highest one-day death toll in Eastern Ghouta in three years.

“It’s indescribable. It reminded me of what we used to see in Aleppo – shelling day and night,” Khalid Abulabed, a field doctor in the Damascus suburb, told Al Jazeera. “Nothing is excluded from the shelling, not schools, not residential areas, not even markets, which has caused a significant increase in the number of people martyred and wounded.”

The SOHR claimed that the stepped-up attacks are a prelude to a government-led ground offensive in the Eastern Ghouta. Syria has been sending reinforcements to the area since February 5, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday. “The reinforcements are complete; the attack is just waiting for a green light,” SOHR head Rami Abdulrahman told AFP.

The SOHR and pro-government media are reporting negotiations between rebels and the Syrian government over the evacuation of al-Qaida-linked militants from the Eastern Ghouta in a last-ditch effort to spare the region a full-out attack, AFP said. However, the main rebel groups in the area denied that these talks took place.

Panos Moumtzis, the U.N. regional coordinator for the Syria crisis, said in a statement released on Monday that “the humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control. Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”

Afrin: The situation in Afrin is becoming even more complex, after reports on Tuesday that pro-government forces entered the northern Syrian city to help defend Kurdish forces battling Turkish-backed troops in Ankara’s “Operation Olive Branch” in the area.

Syrian state-run TV reportedly showed a convoy of pro-government forces entering Afrin on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

SANA reported on Monday that “popular forces” would enter Afrin “within hours.” Turkey’s foreign minister later responded to the report, threatening to confront pro-government forces if they enter the Kurdish enclave, the Associated Press reported.

“If the regime is entering to protect the YPG, then no one can stop us, stop Turkey or the Turkish soldiers,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to AP.

On Friday, Kurdish forces accused Turkey of carrying out a chemical attack in a village in the northwest of Afrin, near the Turkish border, and a spokesman for the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin told Reuters that six people suffered breathing problems after the attack. Turkey dismissed the accusations as “baseless,” but the SOHR and SANA news agency echoed the YPG’s claims.

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Analysis: In South Syria, All Roads Lead Back to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

The recent uptick in clashes between Israel, Iran and Syria risks circling the conflict back to decades-old hostilities between Damascus and Tel Aviv in battles over the Golan Heights.

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GOVERNMENT & PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES

Why Syria and the U.S. Clashed for Control East of the Euphrates

The U.S. coalition’s show of force against a pro-government attack in Deir Ezzor last week is not a change in American engagement policy, but a sign that Washington’s interest in Syria will increasingly come under threat.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

Analysis: A Model For Rebuilding Infrastructure in Northwestern Syria

The Idlib Health Directorate is a model for local networks providing public services in opposition-controlled areas and for rebuilding northwestern Syria’s shattered healthcare system, writes Abdulkarim Ekzayez, a Syrian medical doctor and fellow at Chatham House.

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In Syria’s Tangled Conflict, a Kind of Regional War Has Already Begun

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Samer Abboud,  Associate Professor of international Studies, Arcadeia University

A general state of war exists between antagonistic, intervening states in Syria, even if it remains undeclared and unacknowledged. However, the form this war will take, and the conditions for escalation, remain unclear, writes Syria researcher and professor Samer Abboud.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Analysis: Iran and Israel Eye Containment in Syria

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Yossi Melman,  Israeli Security and Intelligence Commentator

The downing of an Israeli warplane on Saturday threatened to escalate tensions between Israel and Iran. But now the two adversaries are actively trying to avoid a full blown confrontation, writes Israeli security and intelligence commentator Yossi Melman.

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: Syria and the Collapse of the International System

SJAC Update | Feb 20, 2018
Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Russia, 2017. The three guarantors of the “de-escalation zones” in Syria. Photo from Wikipedia

Syria and the Collapse of the International System

The past few weeks have seen the emergence of a new narrative about the conflict in Syria. It is not, as had been widely reported towards the end of 2017, winding down, but rather entering a new phase. While the intervention of foreign powers has defined the war for years, the past few months have seen a profound shift. Not only are foreign powers becoming increasingly active on the ground, they are also increasingly focused on each other. The last two weeks alone have seen incendiary remarks from Turkey regarding the US position in Manbij, Israeli strikes against Iranian air defense, and three foreign states (Israel, Russia, and Turkey) losing aircraft in Syria. The possibility for direct clashes is growing. At this stage of the conflict, with the Syrian government having regained much of its territory, and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) largely destroyed, it should be time for all parties to refocus on negotiations instead of escalating tensions on the battlefield to the detriment of civilians.

One vital aspect of the internationalization of the conflict has been the flagrant violation of international law. Combined with the failures of the UN Security Council and the UN-mediated peace process, the war in Syria is now taking place completely outside of the international system. The following is an analysis of the actions of three of the major international actors in the conflict, and the United Nations, which has failed to avert the crisis.

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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: The ‘bloodiest days’ in Eastern Ghouta, and U.S.-led coalition clashes with pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor

Syria Deeply
Feb. 9th, 2018
This Week in Syria.
Welcome to Syria Deeply’s weekly summary of our coverage of the crisis in Syria.

Coalition targets pro-Assad forces: The U.S.-led coalition said it thwarted an “unprovoked attack” by pro-government fighters on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base in Deir Ezzor province after midnight Wednesday. An unidentified U.S. official told CNN that some 500 pro-government forces were involved in the offensive on the SDF base, located 5 miles (8km) east of a “deconfliction” line in the Khusham region, east of the Euphrates River.

Pro-government forces “were likely seeking to seize oil fields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for Daesh from 2014 to 2017,” the unidentified U.S. official told CNN, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The U.S. said at least 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the attack. Syrian state media said only “dozens” were killed and wounded by the strikes. An unidentified commander fighting in the military alliance supporting President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters that seven members of the pro-government forces were killed and 27 injured. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at more than 20. No U.S. troops and only one SDF fighter were injured in the confrontation.

It was not immediately clear whether the force comprised mostly Syrian troops or Iranian-backed militias.

Syrian state media said that “popular” fighting units were behind the attack, suggesting that it was not orchestrated by Syrian troops. An unidentified Hezbollah official told the Associated Press that pro-Assad forces known as the Popular Committees, as well as the Syrian National Defense Forces, came under attack by coalition forces.

Syria’s foreign ministry sent a letter to the United Nations on Thursday, calling the attack a “war crime” and demanding that the international community “condemn this massacre and hold the coalition responsible for it,” according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Washington tried to ease tensions on Thursday, with Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White saying in a news briefing that the U.S. was not “looking for a conflict with the regime.” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the attacks were defensive and limited in nature, also dismissing claims that the U.S. was stumbling into a broader conflict in Syria, Reuters said.

Hundreds killed in East Ghouta: Syrian government attacks killed more than 228 people in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus since Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.

At least 80 people were killed in airstrikes on Tuesday alone, making it “the highest civilian toll in Syria in nearly nine months, and one of the bloodiest days for Eastern Ghouta in several years,” SOHR director Rami Abdulrahman told AFP.

The besieged suburbs, which are designated as a so-called de-escalation zone by Russia, Turkey and Iran are home to some 400,000 people who are trapped with almost no access to food and medicine.

“There is a misperception that the de-escalation areas have resulted in peace and stability. If anything, these have been serious escalation areas,” U.N.’s assistant secretary-general and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, Panos Moumtzis said, according to the the Guardian.

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The Story of Kfr Nobol Hospital: ‘41 Minutes of Hell’

After the first airstrike hit near the hospital, those inside knew they would soon be targeted, writes Nadi Al Dairi, the Syria country director for Hand in Hand. The next 41 minutes were ones of fear.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

How De-Escalation Zones in Syria Became a War Management Strategy

Nine months into the de-escalation agreement, the deal has helped the Syrian government seize additional territory and widen its control rather than reduce violence in the designated areas, experts said.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Analysis: Russia’s Failure at Sochi Means More War for Syria

Having failed to achieve tangible progress at the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in Sochi, Moscow will instead be forced to rely on military means to achieve its goals in Syria, according to journalist and analyst Neil Hauer.

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HEALTH

‘No Light at the End of the Tunnel’ in Eastern Ghouta: Sparrow

6827aefd-79dd-482b-9584-82c275-565c92dc808b2.jpg?w=68&h=68&fit=facearea&facepad=2&corner-radius=100&mask=corners&maskbg=transparent&fm=png32
Alessandria Masi,  Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

Amid unprecedented pressures on healthcare facilities in Eastern Ghouta, and the repeated failure to deliver life-saving aid, time is running out to improve the humanitarian situation and mitigate misery in the Damascus suburb, says medical researcher Dr. Annie Sparrow.

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CIVIL SOCIETY

The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria’s Northern De-escalation Zone

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Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply

The government’s ongoing offensive on Idlib province has already displaced thousands of civilians, many of whom previously fled violence in other areas, writes Cole Bockenfeld of the International Rescue Committee.

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DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Understanding America’s Endgame in Syria

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Samer Abboud,  Associate Professor of international Studies, Arcadeia University

Washington’s recently outlined policy for Syria is unlikely to be able to change the battlefield, protect its allies, or alter the policies of regional states, says Syria researcher and professor Samer Abboud.

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.