|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.