|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.