Jun. 16th, 2017






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

Civilians under fire in Raqqa: A United Nations war crimes investigation found that at least 300 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes in Raqqa since March. At least 200 of these civilian deaths happened in one village, al-Mansoura, according to Karen Abuzayd, an American commissioner on the U.N. Commission of Inquiry.

In its new report “Key Concerns for Raqqa Battle,” Human Rights Watch emphasized that all sides fighting in the battle for Raqqa should not just be focused on “defeating ISIS, but also about protecting and assisting the civilians who have suffered under ISIS rule for three and a half years,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy Middle East director. Areas of particular concern for civilian protection are minimizing civilian casualties, respecting detainee rights and safe passage and support for displaced people, according to HRW.

The U.N. estimates that roughly 400,000 civilians remain in the province of Raqqa, and about half are in Raqqa city. Nearly 3,500 people have been displaced from Raqqa since the start of this month, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces advanced further into Raqqa city this week, reportedly reaching the walls of the Old City.

Polio outbreak in Idlib: The World Health Organization confirmed and is monitoring an outbreak of polio in the province of Deir Ezzor.

The outbreak began after the virus was detected in two children – in March and May – who have been paralyzed as a result. A third child tested positive for the strain, but has not been paralyzed. These are the first cases of polio in Syria since 2014.

A vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was detected in the affected children, which can result from underimmunization of a community.

In order to eradicate the virus, close to 80 percent of children in a community must be vaccinated. However “access for vaccination is compromised due to prevailing insecurity” in ISIS-controlled Deir Ezzor, according to WHO.

Southern Syria: The Syrian government and its allies stepped up their offensive in the southern province of Daraa.

Early in the week, rebel groups and Syrian pro-government forces were locked in fierce fighting around the city’s Palestinian refugee camp.

Syrian army helicopters dropped at least 36 barrel bombs on various towns in the southern province on Thursday, and at least 50 on Daraa city the previous day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


Read our Daily Executive Summaries




This Week’s Top Articles



Long Read: Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria

Despite its official policy of non-intervention, Israel has taken on a very proactive role in Syria, working to establish an Israel-friendly zone in Quneitra, akin to its strategy in southern Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.



A Small Syrian Town’s Revolt Against Al-Qaida

Al-Qaida-linked factions have been widening their hold in the only Syrian governorate under near complete rebel control, but one small town in southern Idlib is once again rising up against extremist rule.



Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want

An extensive survey of Syrian refugees in Turkey finds very few of them are en route to Europe. We speak to one of the researchers who conducted the poll about what made Syrians flee, and what they want from the peace process and the future.




Community Insight



Medical Workers Seek Accountability for Syrian Healthcare Attacks

Hashem Osseiran,  Deputy Managing Editor of Syria Deeply


Medical workers are monitoring attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria. Their aim is to provide data that can be used by international agencies to enforce legal protections and hold the perpetrators accountable for breaches of international law.



New Documentary Traces the Rise of ISIS

Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply


In his new documentary, “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS,” filmmaker Nick Quested traces the geopolitical decisions that unwittingly contributed to the Syrian conflict and the rise of the so-called Islamic State.




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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Author: Sarah Lafen