Syria Deeply : This Week in Syria



May. 5th, 2017






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

“De-escalation zones”: Russia put forward a proposal to create four “de-escalation zones” in Syria on Wednesday at the latest round of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana. The Syrian opposition walked out of the discussions the same day, however, “because of the violent airstrikes on civilians. The suspension will continue until shelling stops across all Syria,” a rebel source present at the talks told Agence France-Presse.

Iran and Turkey signed the safe-zone proposal on Thursday. The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, described the plan as an “important, promising, positive step in the right direction in the process of de-escalation of the conflict.”

Russian media reportedly obtained a copy of the signed memorandum, which said the proposed safe zones would include areas in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, the Eastern Ghouta region in the Damascus suburbs and a southern area. The draft proposal said the zones aimed to “put an immediate end to the violence” and “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees,” according to an Arabic-language copy of the draft obtained by AFP.

Syrian state-run media added that the memorandum also aimed to “combat terrorism in an effective way.” Syria “supports” the plan and “confirms its commitment to the cessation of hostilities regime signed Dec. 30, 2016, which includes not shelling these regions,” according to a foreign ministry statement.

Russia and Turkey brokered a nationwide cease-fire in December. Iran and the two countries signed a trilateral deal a month later at the first Astana talks, stating that the three would act together to monitor and enforce the cease-fire. However, clashes and aerial bombardments continued in many areas of Syria, including Idlib and Eastern Ghouta.

Advance on ISIS: The United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued their offensive against the so-called Islamic State, taking control of large parts of the northern Syrian town of Tabqa. On Monday, the United Kingdom-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the SDF controlled roughly 80 percent of the town.

Clashes between the two groups intensified near the end of the week; at least 36 ISIS fighters and 10 SDF fighters were killed, according to the SOHR.

On Tuesday, ISIS attacked a camp for displaced people and a defense forces checkpoint near the Iraq-Syria border, killing at least 30 people, mostly civilians.

“Deteriorating” conditions in Eastern Ghouta: Infighting erupted between the major opposition and extremist groups in Eastern Ghouta. Clashes began last Friday between Jaish al-Islam, a prominent Islamist rebel group in the area, Failaq al-Rahman and the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. By Thursday, fighting had killed at least 143 people, including 13 civilians, according to al-Jazeera.

The clashes have worsened the already dire situation in Eastern Ghouta, which has been besieged by pro-government forces since 2013, significantly driving up the cost of basic supplies such as food and medicine. Some 400,000 people are trapped in Eastern Ghouta suffering from “the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation” the U.N. in-house news agency said on Monday.

On Tuesday night, a humanitarian convoy of 51 trucks was given permission to enter the area for the first time since October 2016. However, residents in the area’s de facto capital, Douma, said the supplies were not nearly enough.

“The supplies are only enough for a few days. There isn’t even enough for the city of Douma alone – the aid will total 7,000 meals for the 25,000 thousand families in the city,” Khalid Aybour, head of the Douma Local Council told Syria Direct.


Read our daily Executive Summaries




This Week’s Top Articles



Analysis: The Free Idlib Army’s Role in the U.S. Battle Against Al-Qaida in Syria

As the FSA-linked Free Idlib Army continues to struggle to counter al-Qaida’s control in the province, the U.S. may be looking to support a larger rebel merger on the ground in Syria, writes Syrian journalist Abdulrahman al-Masri.



How to Combat Domestic Violence Among Syrian Refugees? Talk to Men

Domestic violence is reported to have risen sharply among Syrians forced to flee their homeland. While many aid programs target women, some groups in Lebanon are putting new focus on men, hoping to address the problem at the source.



A ‘University in Exile’ to Reconnect Syrian Students and Academics

Syrian students and academics scattered by war have had their careers and education disrupted. We spoke to the founder of the Jamiya Project, which is trying to reconnect Syrian academics to refugee students through blended online and in-person learning.




Community Insight



Expert View: What’s at Stake in Future Negotiations Between U.S. and Russia

Kim Bode,  Community Editor of Syria Deeply and Refugees Deeply


As the U.S. and Russia reopen discussions about Syria, Syria Deeply spoke with Russia policy experts about Moscow’s primary objective and what it would take for the Kremlin to drop Assad.



Syria’s Citizen Journalists on the Frontline of Press Freedom

Mansour Omari,  Syria Correspondent, Reporters Without Borders


On International Press Freedom Day, Syrian journalist and Syria correspondent for Reporters Without Borders Mansour Omari discusses the rise of citizen journalists documenting the conflict in Syria, which is an act of resistance itself.



‘As Syrians, We Need to Rebuild People, Not Countries’

Zeina Yagan,  Senior Associate, Orient Research Centre


Orient Research Centre associate Zeina Yagan discusses one of the many dilemmas that has emerged for Syrians during the conflict: How does one bridge the deep, sometimes emotionally charged, divides in the Syrian community?




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 emailTwitter or Facebook.

Author: Sarah Lafen

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