Syria Deeply
Mar. 12th, 2018
This Week in Syria.

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

As the Syrian conflict enters its eighth year, Syria Deeply is collecting insights from our expert community about what the war has taught us about 21st century conflicts. We invite you to share your expertise about the most important developments and lessons here.

Eastern Ghouta: The death toll in East Ghouta continued to rise this week, as pro-government forces continued their aerial and ground offensive on Damascus suburbs that have been under siege for more than four years.

Over the weekend, Syrian troops reportedly cut off the major towns of Douma and Harasta from the rest of the opposition enclave and seized the towns of Misraba and Mudeira. The advance split the Eastern Ghouta suburbs in two, as pro-government forces established a corridor that cuts through the opposition holdout.

More than 1,100 people have been killed since the start of the campaign three weeks ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Civilians in the area are now faced with the difficult choice of either staying in East Ghouta amid the pro-government advance, despite the deadly aerial campaign and the lack of necessary medical and food supplies, or evacuating to government-run shelters.

The SOHR said on Monday that negotiations were ongoing between community leaders from certain towns in East Ghouta, and mediators from the capital. The Russian military said late on Sunday that 52 civilians, including 26 children, had been evacuated from Misraba, according to Reuters.

Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the area, said on Monday it reached an agreement with Russia through the United Nations to evacuate the wounded, the Associated Press reported. A day earlier, Faylaq al-Rahman, another major rebel group, said in a statement that it rejected a previous Russian proposal that would allow them safe passage out of East Ghouta if they surrendered the enclave to government forces.

Northern Syria: Turkish troops and allied rebels reached the outskirts of the Kurdish-held city of Afrin over the weekend. Ebrahim Ebrahim, a Europe-based spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told theAssociated Press that thousands are fleeing the area as Turkish-backed fighters advance on Afrin. According to Al Jazeera, others are planning to erect a human shield to protect the center of Afrin from Turkish forces.

Elsewhere in northern Syria, there have been clashes between major opposition groups vying for control in the countrysides of Aleppo and Idlib provinces for more than a week. Clashes began after rebel groups Ahrar al-Sham and Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki announced last month they would merge forces in an attempt to seize territory controlled by the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Meanwhile, Syrian government and Russian airstrikes are escalating in Idlib province. SOHR reported that at least seven people were killed in air raids on Sunday and Monday, and at least a dozen more people were injured. Syrian Civil Defense officials said one of the airstrikes hit a preschool in Teftenaz village on Monday, injuring at least 20 people, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported.

Southern Syria: Syrian warplanes reportedly hit the southwestern province of Daraa on Monday, despite the de-escalation zone deal that Russia, the United States and Jordan agreed to in July, according to SOHR. In the first aerial attack since the de-escalation agreement, at least eight raids targeted the eastern Daraa towns of Busr al-Harir, Hrak, al-Gharaiya al-Gharbiya and al-Sowara, Reuters reported.

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