The following is a selection by our editors of significant weekly developments in Syria. Depending on events, each issue will include anywhere from four to eight briefs. This series is produced in both Arabic and English in partnership between Salon Syria and Jadaliyya. Suggestions and blurbs may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Syria Between Trump and Putin
28 June 2018
The first summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will be held on 16 July in Helsinki amid an ambiguous international atmosphere for Trump who has been distancing himself from historical allies and whose mandate has been a subject of investigation for possible Russian intervention in the presidential elections.
The Republican president reached the White House after promising to achieve reconciliation between Russia and the United States, however, after seventeen months in office, he has not fulfilled this promise. Preparations have been underway for two months for this summit between the two presidents who have not met except on the sidelines of international meetings. The White House and the Kremlin symbolically announced the date and time of the meeting simultaneously on Thursday.
The summit, which will be held ten years after former President Barack Obama’ declaration of “reviving relationships” that was not meant to be, constitutes a new attempt to improve these relations that have not been this bad since the Cold War.
In recent years, new issues have been added to the list of disputes, including Moscow’s support for the Syrian government, the annexation of Crimea after the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, and the poisoning of the former double agent Sergey Skripal that led to the exchange of diplomatic expulsions, including US diplomats.
The final touches to this summit were made on Wednesday during the White House National Security Adviser John Bolton’s visit to Moscow, which was closely followed in the United States.
Putin said after meeting Bolton in the Kremlin that he hoped to at least achieve “first steps to restore full relationships,” stressing that “he never sought for a confrontation.”
The Kremlin said that the summit will include a private meeting, a business lunch, a joint press conference, and a joint statement.
The Putin-Trump summit will be held a few days after the NATO summit in Brussels on 11-12 July, which is expected to witness tensions between Trump and his western counterparts.
On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the summit, stressing that NATO’s approach is based on defense and dialogue with Russia.
Israel Prevents Entry of Syrians
30 June 2018
Israel will not allow for the entry of Syrian civilians fleeing the war in their country, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that his government will continue to provide them with humanitarian assistance.
Tens of thousands of Syrians have fled from the large-scale military operation launched by the Syrian government on 19 June with Russian support in Daraa governorate, with the aim of fully recapturing this government. Some of them have established temporary camps near the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.
“In regard to southern Syria, we will continue to defend our border,” Netanyahu said in his cabinet meeting.
“We will provide humanitarian assistance as much as we can. We will not allow for the entry into our country,” he said. An Israeli officer told the press on Sunday that Israel transported “around thirty tons of food, medical equipment, and a large quantity of clothes” to displaced civilians on the Syrian side of the Golan heights after they fled battles in southern Syria.
Israel set up a program to provide humanitarian assistance for Syrians across the border in the Golan region and treatment for injured Syrians.
On Friday, the Israeli army said that it carried out a night-time operation across the armistice line with Syria.
The surge in violence in the last two weeks has forced around one hundred and sixty thousand people to flee their homes according to preliminary estimates from the UN. This includes twenty thousand people who fled to areas close to the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan, which hosts more than six hundred and fifty thousand registered Syrian refugees and estimates the actual number to be around 1.3 million refugees.
The Israeli officer reiterated that the army would not enter Syrian territory and said, “We will open up the gates, deliver the humanitarian assistance, and then close the gate.” This aid is handled by non-governmental organizations he added.
Amman said that it cannot open its border for more Syrians fleeing the seven-year-old conflict, however, it said that it would send aid across the border for displaced people.
In 1967, Israel occupied vast areas in the Golan Heights and surrounding areas in Syria, and later annexed them in a move that was not recognized by the international community.
Turkey in Afrin
1 July 2018
The Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said that the Turkish presence in Afrin, north of Syria, will go on for some time in order to “continue its development.”
“Life has gone back to normal in Afrin, but Turkey’s presence will go on for some time to continue work on the development of the area,” according to the official Anatolia news agency. Aksoy pointed out that there are more than one hundred and forty thousand people from Afrin’s residents who went back to settle down in their houses.
“Turkey has gradually begun to hand over some of the tasks to the local council established by the residents of Afrin, which comprises figures from all components in the region, including Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs,” he said, “Turkey is facing defamation campaigns on the pretext of Afrin,” he added.
On 18 March 2018, Turkish forces and the opposition Free Syrian Army took control over the center of Afrin, according to Anatolia news agency.
Maya Without Legs in Turkey
27 June 2018
The image of the Syrian child Maya who was born without legs and uses artificial limbs that are basically tin cans has circled the world and caused wide shock and controversy. Now, Maya has been transferred to Turkey and is ready to start a new chapter in her life.
The orthopedic treating the eight-year-old child in Istanbul pledged in front of her father saying: “Maya will walk.”
AFP and other media ten days ago published photos showing Maya Morai difficultly moving around with the help of tin cans and plastic tubes in a camp for displaced people in Idlib, northwest of Syria.
Maya’s father Mohammed Moraai (thirty-four years) made these artificial limbs, he himself was born with the same birth defect as that of Maya.
Their pictures motivated the Israeli Red Crescent to evacuate the child and the father from Idlib quickly, and send to a specialized clinic in Istanbul.
“Maya will walk. I hope this will happen in the next three months,” said Dr. Mehmet Zeki Culcu who is taking care of them.
Mohammed Morai and his family used to live in a village in the southern countryside of Aleppo, and they left their homes early this year because of the battles.
A few months ago, Maya was able to move around by crawling just like her father, but after she went through surgery which shortened her amputated legs, she was not able to even crawl.
“After the surgery, she could not move around and she stayed in the tent,” her father said, “Maya has two brothers and three sisters who do not suffer from this birth defect.”
“In order to encourage her to leave the tent, I came up with the idea of placing plastic tubes stuffed with sponges on the amputated legs to ease the pressure on the limbs. After that, I added two empty tuna cans because the tubes could not withstand the friction with the ground very well,” her father said.
Armed with this innovative device, Maya went back to wandering outside the tent and went to the camp’s school all by herself. Her father used to replace the tubes once a month and the tuna cans once a week.
Russia Imposes a Settlement
1 July 2018
Syrian opposition factions in Daraa reached an agreement on Sunday with Russian forces that provides for settling the situation of militants under a general amnesty.
“The Russian military negotiation team reached an agreement with militant commanders in the city Daraa al-Balad and the northwestern countryside of Daraa that provides for handing in heavy and middle weaponry to the Syrian army and settling the situation of all militants under a general amnesty. Militant commanders most probably left for Jordan,” informed Syrian sources said.
A meeting was held on Sunday at noon at the governorate town hall in Daraa that included some militant commanders from Daraa al-Balad and the northwestern countryside of Daraa. The first session of negotiations ended, and the parties left for consultations and came back in the evening, and an agreement was reached.
Another team from the Russian forces held prolonged meetings that lasted for two days in the city of Bosra al-Sham in the eastern countryside of Daraa. An agreement was reached the provides for the handing of heavy, middle, and light weaponry present in Bosra al-Sham. The agreement also provides for the entry of the Syrian army to the city and the opening of a humanitarian corridor between the villages of Kharba and Ira’a.
“On Sunday evening, the armed groups began to hand in their heavy equipment in Bosra al-Sham to army units and then it was transported to the town of Barad in Sweida Governorate, east of Bosra al-Sham,” a Syrian military source told a German news agency.