Syria
Idlib ruins

Amnesty sees Russian-backed ‘war crimes’ in Syria

A report by Amnesty International finds that the Syrian government, supported by Russia, committed a series of war crimes in the northwest of the country in late 2019 and 2020. The report states that “attacks from the air and the ground repeatedly struck residential areas and crucial infrastructure” in opposition-held areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama provinces. The report documents 18 attacks on schools and medical facilities, calling them “serious violations” of international humanitarian law. (Photo: White Helmets)

Syria
syria occupied

Has Assad outlived usefulness to Putin?

The Russian International Affairs Council, an official diplomatic think-tank, issued a report predicting that Russia, Turkey and Iran will soon reach a joint agreement to remove Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from power, replacing him with a transitional government including members of both the regime and opposition, as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Russian news agency TASS suggests that Moscow fears a repeat of the “Afghan scenario” in Syria if it continues to back an unpopular regime. (Photo via Syria Call)

Syria
afrin blast

Syrian Kurds condemn ‘terrorist act’ in Afrin

Syrian Kurdish officials condemned the bombing in the Turkish-occupied city of Afrin that claimed the lives of at least 40 civilians, including 12 children. The explosive device was attached to an oil tanker and detonated as it drove through a crowded market. “We in the Syrian Democratic Council condemn and denounce this cowardly terrorist act that targeted innocent civilians and threatens the remaining ones to move and leave their villages and cities,” the SDC, political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said in a statement. But Turkish administrators in the town blamed the attack on Kurdish guerillas of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), leading constituent militia of the SDF. (Photo via Kurdistan24)

Syria
White Helmets

UN panel: ‘highly likely’ Assad bombs hospitals

A report by a special UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry ordered by the Secretary-General finds that it is “highly probable” that the Bashar Assad regime and allied forces have bombed hospitals and other civilian targets in Syria. The report cited air-strikes last year on a hospital, a clinic, and a childcare facility in opposition-held areas of Idlib and Hama provinces. All three were on a “deconfliction list” of protected sites that the UN had provided to Damascus. The Board of Inquiry also found it “plausible” the regime targetted another healthcare center. Yet the report failed to specifically mention Russia, which has also been engaged in the air-strikes, referring only to “the Government of Syria and/or its allies.” The Assad regime has claimed that the targeted sites were being used by “terrorists.” (Photo via EA Worldview)

Europe
refugees

EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo: UNHCR/H.Holland)

Syria
Syria prisoners

Demand urgent action to protect Syrian detainees

The Syrian regime has announced the first case of COVID-19 in the country after weeks of denial, and advocates in the diaspora believe the real number of cases is likely higher. The UK-based Syria Campaign writes that an outbreak in Syria could mean “horror beyond imagination.” Thousands of displaced families living in overcrowded camps cannot self-isolate. Health infrastructures in the country have collapsed due to the systematic targeting of hospitals by the regime and Russia. Especially vulnerable are the nearly 100,000 detainees and forcibly disappeared, many of whom are held in cramped underground centers where they are exposed to horrific conditions including torture and deprivation of proper food, water, hygiene, and medical care. These cells are already perfect breeding grounds for viruses and illnesses, and if coronavirus spreads containment will be impossible. (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Planet Watch
Aleppo ruins

UN calls for ‘global ceasefire’ in response to COVID-19

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling for warring parties across the world to lay down arms in support of the battle against COVID-19. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives… Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the air-strikes. It is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, to bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

Syria
Syrian refugee children

From revolution to genocide: Syria’s grim anniversary

Nine years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II. (Photo of refugee children on Jordanian border: Peter Biro/ECHO via The New Humanitarian)

Syria
Syria oil map

Great powers jockey for control of Syrian oil

In his talks with Vladimir Putin on their carve-up of northern Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed joint Russian-Turkish control of the oil-fields in Deir ez-Zor province, now under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Wall Street Journal meanwhile reports that the SDF is selling oil from the those fields to the Assad regime. This is certainly an absurd irony, as US forces are backing up the SDF in control of the fields. Further evidence that, rhetoric and even official policy notwithstanding, the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrian war. The sales would appear to be another bid by the Kurds to win a separate peace with the Assad regime now that they are caught between foreign powers. The bitter irony is that Assad, ultimately, is also hostile to Kurdish autonomy. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)

Syria
White Helmets

UN: Russia commits ‘war crimes’ in Syria

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued a report charging that Russia is responsible for war crimes in the ongoing Syrian conflict. The report focuses on indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas from July 2019 through January 2020, and apparently intentional attacks by “pro-government forces” on civilian targets such as hospitals and medical facilities. The report comes as Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a new ceasefire in Idlib province, after a meeting in Moscow. The deal creates another “security corridor,” to be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish forces—but this time several kilometers north of the previous buffer zone the two powers had been recognizing before the recent regime offensive. Areas south of the zone are effectively ceded to the Assad regime, and the line of control is closer to Idlib’s capital, which remains in opposition hands. (Photo: White Helmets)

Syria
Idlib ruins

Syria: endgame or escalation?

Amid all the recent talk about how the war in Syria is approaching an imminent end, it suddenly looks set for international escalation. With Turkish forces resisting the Assadist advance into Idlib province, the last rebel-held territory, there is clear potential for direct combat between a NATO member and the Damascus regime or its Russian backers. The humanitarian catastrophe is worsening in Idlib, with over half a million displaced and pouring into camps along the Turkish border. Regime forces this week recaptured Kafranbel, an important symbolic victory, as the town was among the first to rebel against Assad and was long a symbol of the revolution. Regime and Russian aerial bombardment continues to take a horrific toll, with schools and hospitals intentionally targeted.  (Photo: White Helmets)