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Last Homs evacuations: The final rebel evacuations from al-Waer, the last remaining rebel-held neighborhood in Homs city, were completed over the weekend, giving the Syrian government complete control of the city.
Nearly 3,000 people were bused out of the city, including some 700 fighters and their families, and were transferred to rebel-held areas of Idlib province or the northern Syrian city of al-Jarablus. Homs provincial governor Talal Barazi told AFP that roughly 1,150 fighters chose to stay in the city and hand over their weapons.
Al-Waer has been under a government-imposed siege since 2013. Just two days after the government regained control of Homs, at least four were killed and 32 injured in a car bomb in the al-Zahra neighborhood.
The civilian cost in the fight against ISIS: The U.S.-led coalition ramped up airstrikes in Syria this month and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) closed in on Raqqa in the fight against ISIS. Civilians, however, paid a much higher price.
At least 100 people were killed in airstrikes believed to be carried out by the U.S.-led coalition Thursday night and Friday in al-Mayadin, an ISIS-held town in Deir Ezzor, according to Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Activists also say U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on Wednesday on the village of Baruda, 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of Raqqa, killed at least 16 civilians, many of whom were displaced in the weekend’s evacuation from Homs province.
Coalition airstrikes between April 23 and May 23 killed at least 225 civilians, including 44 children and 36 women, according to SOHR. The Observatory also noted that during this same period coalition actions killed at least 122 ISIS militants and pro-government forces and Syrian government warplanes and helicopters killed at least 146 civilians.
Four days after solidifying its grip on Homs city, the Syrian army on Thursday said it had gained control of areas south of Palmyra east of Qaryatayn in southeastern Homs province from ISIS. The army also said it killed the militant group’s “minister of war,” Abu Musab al-Masri, in an attack in northern Syria.
Elsewhere in northern Syria, in the town of al-Bab where Turkish-backed forces pushed ISIS out of in February, the contaminated water supply has caused an outbreak of typhoid fever that is “simply beyond the city’s capabilities,” Dr. Mohammad Ismail, who runs a clinic inside the city that is treating some 10-15 new cases a day, told Syria Direct.
Escalation Zone: The Syrian army’s advance on ISIS in Homs province may not be solely to push militants out of the area. The advance brings pro-government forces closer to areas controlled by U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria’s southern provinces.
Clashes continued this week between rebels and pro-government forces in the desert area known as the Badia, north of al-Tanf base where the U.S. and U.K. are training Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS. On Monday, the Free Syrian Army launched a campaign to “cleanse the Badia of Iranian and foreign militias,” according to Syria Direct.
Last week, pro-government forces advance near al-Tanf base on Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan following a rebel operation that cleared ISIS out of the area. In response to the advance, U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a the pro-government convoy advancing what the Pentagon called “an established de-confliction zone.”
Though the exact coordinates of the four safe zones proposed in Russia, Turkey and Iran’s Astana agreement will only be announced June 4, rebel-held areas of Daraa province were included in “de-escalation” plan. However, on Wednesday, Syrian warplanes and helicopters carried out at least 12 airstrikes and nine barrel bomb attacks on rebel-held parts Daraa city, according to the Associated Press.
Syrian refugees in Turkey hoped the ruling AKP party would use their victory in last month’s constitutional referendum to grant citizenship and labor rights to more refugees. So far, they have been sorely disappointed, writes Saleem al-Omar for the Atlantic Council.
Steven Heydemann, Janet Wright Ketcham Professor in Middle East Studies, Smith College
As using reconstruction support as leverage would be unrealistic, Western engagement in Syria’s recovery should focus on shielding programs from the regime and working with trusted local actors, argues Professor Steven Heydemann.
Mia Bennett, Researcher, Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch
In the first of a two-part commentary on family reunification, Bethany Brown of Human Rights Watch and photojournalist Anna Pantelia document a Syrian family’s final days in Greece before heading to Germany to reunite with their father after nearly two years apart.
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