Oct. 30th, 2017
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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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.
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.
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.
Aron Lund, Freelance Journalist and Analyst Specializing in Syria
Barak Barfi, Research fellow, New America Foundation
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