Syria Deeply: (Un)Safe Zones in Syria, Evacuation of Remaining Rebel-Held Damascus Districts and Confrontation Between the U.S. And Syria
May 19, 2017
This Week in Syria
Welcome to our weekly summary of Syria Deeply’s top coverage of crisis in Syria.
Safe Zones In Syria: As another round of United Nations-led peace talks kicked off in Geneva on Tuesday, Syria Deeply launched its Safe Zones platform.
Russia, Iran and Turkey are not the first to propose creating some form of “de-escalation” zone in Syria. We’ve compiled a comprehensive overview, including original reporting, our own in-depth analysis and thought-provoking expert commentary, of the various plans discussed on the international stage to stem the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
We’ll keep adding to it over time, providing you with the necessary context and facts as this issue unfolds.
U.S.-Syria Tensions: Diplomatic tensions escalated between the U.S. and the Syrian government this week, concluding in military action. On Thursday, U.S.-led coalition warplanes hit a pro-government convoy advancing “inside an established de-confliction zone” near the al-Tanf base in southern Syria and “posed a threat to U.S. and partner forces,” according to a coalition statement. Syrian state news said there were “a number” of casualties.
U.S. and British special forces use the base to train Syrian rebel forces fighting ISIS. Earlier in the week, pro-government forces advanced near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan following a rebel operation that cleared ISIS out of the area.
On Tuesday, the State Department released aerial images of Saydnaya military prison outside of Damascus and other “newly declassified information,” accusing the Syrian government of building and operating a crematorium at the detention center “to cover up the extent of mass murders taking place.” In February, Amnesty International released a report claiming that between 5,000 and 13,000 detainees were executed at Saydnaya during the first five years of the conflict, amounting to between 20 and 50 executions once or twice a week.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new sanctions on five Syrian people and five Syrian companies “in response to continued acts of violence committed by the Government of Syria.” Among them are President Bashar al-Assad’s cousins Ihab Makhlouf and Iyad Makhlouf and the Bustan charity, which OFAC said regime ally Rami Makhlouf used to create “a vast private network of militias and security-linked institutions … to support and augment Syrian military forces.”
Green Buses Leave Damascus: The last remaining rebels in Qaboun left the Damascus district on Sunday, concluding an agreement between rebels and government forces. Some were sent to rebel-held areas in northern Syria, while others fled to opposition-controlled areas of the Damascus suburbs.