Syria Deeply Weekly Update: Battle For Raqqa, Damascus suburb truces on shaky ground and a new Executive Order from Trump

Syria Deeply
Mar. 10th, 2017
This Week in Syria.
Dear Readers: Here is your weekly update on the war in Syria.

Battle For Raqqa: About 400 United States Marines and Army Rangers, supported by artillery units, were deployed to Syria on Wednesday to bolster the fight against so-called Islamic State. A further 1,000 troops are preparing to head for Kuwait as back-up, according to the Pentagon. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in northern Raqqa killed 23 civilians, including eight children, on Thursday.

American forces are expected to assist the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as they close in on ISIS-held territory in Raqqa. On Thursday, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters: “We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city.” U.S.-backed Kurdish forces fighting ISIS also clashed with Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria along Turkey’s border. At least 71 Kurdish forces were killed in the last week, according to the Turkish military.

Government Ramps Up Offensives: Syrian government forces stepped up offensives in the Damascus suburbs and the provinces of Aleppo and Daraa. On Tuesday, pro-government forces fighting ISIS advanced to the western banks of the Euphrates, where they seized the main water-pumping and treatment station supplying Aleppo.

The same day, Russia declared a cease-fire in opposition-controlled Eastern Ghouta that is expected to extend until March 20. However, regime raids continued to target the area, including rebel-held neighborhoods with long-standing truces with the government such as Qaboun, Barzeh and Tishreen.

Clashes between pro-government and rebel forces continue in the southern province of Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that regime forces received military reinforcements on Thursday to broaden the offensive against opposition factions and retake neighborhoods lost in the past week.

Trump Travel Ban: President Donald Trump signed a new Executive Order on Monday, replacing an earlier decree that was blocked by a federal court. The new order includes a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. for citizens of six countries, including Syria, and a 120-day ban on all refugees. The new order, unlike the previous one, does not indefinitely block all Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.



This Week’s Top Articles


Analysis: ‘Safe Zone’ on Lebanon Border Would Benefit Hezbollah, Iran

Following Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s call for a safe zone in Syria along the Lebanese border, Syrian journalist Abdulrahman al-Masri explores what the Shiite militia stands to gain from such an area and the potential impact on regional powers.


Before Trump Order, Syrians Already Faced Shrinking Spaces for Refuge

Amid the revised executive order suspending refugee resettlement in the U.S., Austin Schiano explores what spaces are left for Syrian refugees in countries around the world.


Analysis: Hezbollah’s Highly Versatile And Embedded Role In Syria

Lebanese militia Hezbollah has vowed not to leave Syria until they have guarantees that the country will remain a key player in the Iran-led “resistance axis,” writes Levant researcher Mona Alami.


Community Insight


Syria’s Children Risk Being Damaged Forever by Toxic Stress

Misty Buswell,  Director of Media, Communications and Advocacy in the Middle East, Save the Children

The Syrian war will permanently damage a generation if the mental health needs of children are not immediately addressed, writes Save the Children’s regional advocacy, media and communications director Misty Buswell.


The Reality of Economic Reconstruction in Syria

Rashad al-Kattan,  Political and Security Risk Analyst, and a Fellow with the Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews

Nearly six years of conflict have dramatically altered Syria’s economy. Political and security risk analyst Rashad al-Kattan examines the economic challenges facing the war-ravaged country.


Upcoming coverage

As clashes between government and rebel forces in Daraa continue, next week we will explore the impact of recent ISIS attacks in the southern province. We will also keep a close eye on the Damascus suburbs where, in addition to increased government airstrikes, residents of Eastern Ghouta are now faced with Jaish al-Islam’s attacks on civil society institutions.

Author: Shelby Vcelka

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