Feb. 17th, 2017
Dear Readers: Here’s your weekly update on the war in Syria.
Despite a nationwide ceasefire that came into effect in December, civilians came under attack this week in several Syrian provinces.
For the first time in more than a year, rebels launched an offensive in the southwestern city of Daraa on Sunday. The offensive, named “Death Rather than Humiliation,” targeted regime-controlled areas in an attempt to prevent their troops from gaining control of the border crossing with Jordan. The Syrian government and Russia responded with intense airstrikes on the city. A Syria Civil Defense worker told Anadolu Agency that bombings destroyed six hospitals in the city, but the civilian death toll is still unclear.
In Idlib, we are beginning to see the civilian cost of excluding groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria, from the ceasefire as factional fighting rages. Thursday’s bombardment on the countryside of the rebel-held province killed at least five people.
In the northern city of al-Bab, at least 45 civilians, including 14 women and 18 children, have been killed since Wednesday by Turkish warplanes and Turkey-backed rebel forces, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.K.-based monitoring group said at least 110 civilians had been killed in al-Bab since Turkey started its anti-ISIS operation in the city on February 7. Roughly 10 miles (15km) from the Turkish border, al-Bab is the so-called Islamic State’s last stronghold in Aleppo province.
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This Week’s Top Articles
Muhammad Fares, a Syrian journalist from Wadi Barada, discusses the long history of water as a weapon in the Damascus suburbs and the river valley that contains the larger story of the Syrian conflict.
Young Syrian refugee women have been learning to juggle, walk on stilts and hula-hoop as part of a new scheme in Turkey designed to break down language and social barriers and help the girls make friends.
DIPLOMACY & FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Frederic C. Hof, Director, Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East
On February 14, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof spoke before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, in Washington, D.C., at a hearing titled ‘Defeating Terrorism in Syria: a New Way Forward.’ Here is a transcript of his statement.
Next week, we’ll have a report on the shrinking number of safe spaces around the world for Syrian refugees. We will also keep a close eye on the ongoing conversation between world powers to create safe zones in Syria, as well as the next round of U.N.-sponsored peace talks set to begin in Geneva on February 23.