August 13, 2016

Dear Readers,Welcome to the weekly Syria Deeply newsletter. We’ve rounded up the most important stories and developments about Syria and the Syrians in order to bring you valuable news and analysis. But first, here is a brief overview of what happened this week:Fighting intensified in several areas of Syria, the worst of it taking place in Aleppo. As clashes escalated, there were several reports this week that prohibited weapons had been used in at least two provinces in Syria.The Syrian Civil Defense, a group of volunteer rescue workers, accused Russia of dropping thermite bombs on civilian areas of rebel-held Idlib province over the weekend. If true, using the incendiary weapon in a civilian area would be a violation of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. On Thursday, medical officials in opposition-held Aleppo said barrel bombs believed to be filled with toxic gas fell on the neighborhood of Zubdiya, killing at least four people and injuring at least 55 others.At least three hospitals in Syria were hit in airstrikes this week. Over the weekend four airstrikes targeted a hospital in Idlib, killing at least 10 people. On Friday, airstrikes hit the last remaining hospital for women and children in Kafr Hamra, a town in northern Aleppo. At least two staff members were killed in the air raid. Activists inside rebel-held Aleppo also said that airstrikes also hit the Omar Abdul Aziz Hospital.According to a group of 15 of the last remaining doctors in eastern Aleppo, “Right now, there is an attack on a medical facility every 17 hours. At this rate our medical services in Aleppo could be completely destroyed in a month,” the doctors wrote in a statement addressed to President Barack Obama.Opposition forces broke the siege in eastern Aleppo over the weekend, but the battle for control of both the opposition-held and western, government-held areas continued this week in Syria’s largest city. Various rebel factions fighting in eastern Aleppo also launched an offensive to seize the western site of the city, effectively besieging some 1.5 million people.The U.N. warned that more than 2 million people living in Aleppo could fall under complete siege as fighting escalates in the city. Water has already been cut across the entire city. “Civilians on both sides of the conflict – on both sides of Aleppo – are in danger of being surrounded and affected by shortages and bombings,” Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, said.On Wednesday, Russia announced it would implement daily three-hour cease-fires in Aleppo to allow aid deliveries. All military action, both ground and air, would be stopped for these three-hour periods and Moscow will coordinate with Damascus to “ensure that all interested organizations have the opportunity to deliver their humanitarian assistance to the residents of Aleppo,” Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, an official with the Russian defense ministry, said.Fighting also continued this week in other areas of northern Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters, launched its final assault to clear out ISIS militants from Manbij city near the Turkish border. Last week, the SDF announced it had cleared roughly 90 percent of the city.On Friday, Russian airstrikes cut the water supply in the so-called Islamic State group’s de facto capital, Raqqa, BBC News reported. The strikes hit a water pumping station that supplied the city, killing at least 24 civilians, as well as six others whose affiliation could not be identified, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Weekly Highlights:

The Siege Sector: Why Starving Civilians Is Big Business

As 2 million people are at risk of coming under siege in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, researcher Will Todman speaks to Syria Deeply about the war economy that has taken hold in besieged areas across the country.

Anti-Syrian-government activists hold up placards during a sit-in against the ongoing siege imposed on the Syrian town of Madaya in front of the E.U. embassy in Beirut. AP/Hassan Ammar, File

Analysis: How Syrian Men Changed Under Militant Rule

ISIS has been increasing its influence on the local population, creating changes in the fabric of society that could outlive the militant group’s existence, Syrian journalist Jalal Zein al-Deen explains.

An ISIS flag hangs amid the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria July 4, 2015, after Islamic State group militants had previously seized the city. Islamic State Group

My Days in Damascus Entry 3: The Post-Revolution Generation

Farah, a young woman living in Syria’s capital city, explores the difficulties of living in Damascus, where most of the people her age have fled, giving way to a younger generation that is far less interested in the future of Syria.

View from a balcony in Damascus, Syria. Farah

Additional Reading

For new reporting and analysis every weekday, visit www.newsdeeply.com/syria.
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Top image: Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of the faction Jabhat al-Nusra, announces the group’s split from al-Qaida. Telegram

Author: Shelby Vcelka