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.
It is as if the war is still in its beginning. The destruction, rubble, casualties, all parties of the conflict’s tough stances, and inability of the international community do not indicate a near end of the tragedy, but rather a continuation of it.
2401! – Ghouta Truce
Reuters, AFP, and Lancet
The UN Security Council approved Resolution 2401, which calls for a thirty-day truce in Syria to enable humanitarian-aid delivery and medical evacuations. The resolution excluded ISIS and al-Qaeda, as well as individuals and organizations associated with them.
Russia supported the resolution after last-minute negotiations. During one week of escalation in eastern Ghouta, three thousand people were killed or injured, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The vote came as military air jets bombed eastern Ghouta, the last enclave for the armed opposition, near the Syrian capital of Damascus for the seventh day in a row.
The Security Council session had been planned for Thursday, but it was delayed for two days amid tense negotiations between Russia and the rest of the members. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) reported that during the two days of negotiations in New York one hundred and eighty people were killed, including forty-two children, and five hundred people were injured.
Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres called for an immediate end to “war activities.” After the adoption of the resolution, the escalation persisted amid mobilization of government forces to enter eastern Ghouta. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that military air jets bombed eastern Ghouta after the Security Council vote, amid fears that the truce would not be observed. AFP said that government forces launched a ground attack on eastern Ghouta on two fronts.
Russian and French Presidents Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the “importance of continuing common efforts in order to fully implement” the thirty-day truce called for in the Resolution.
Several international and humanitarian organizations condemned the attack on civilians in Ghouta. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the campaign in eastern Ghouta was a “genocide”. UNICEF also said, “We no longer have words to describe the children’s suffering in Syria.”
In a commentary on 23 February, the Lancet Magazine, which is specialized in public health, reported that “since 4 February 2018, Syrian forces with Russian support have bombarded eastern Ghouta, an enclave out of government control near Damascus.”
This military operation has left hundreds of civilians dead and more than one thousand and five hundred and fifty inured as of 21 February 2018. The PAX movement, an international peace movement, documented in only one day (20 February 2018) one hundred and ten civilians killed, hundreds injured, one hundred and thirty-one air strikes, forty-four barrel bombs, twenty-eight surface-to-surface missiles, five cluster bombs, and countless other artillery and rocket fire. Amnesty International regards this attack as a continuation of “large-scale war crimes.”
SAMS documented the bombardment of twenty-five hospitals and medical centers, some of which were bombed more than once, from 19 to 23 February 2018. Concurrently, armed groups replied by bombarding neighborhoods in Damascus killing and injuring tens of civilians.
2401 Does not Include Afrin
21-25 February 2018
AFP and Reuters
The Olive Branch Operation, launched by Turkish forces alongside Syrian opposition armed factions, has continued and advanced in Afrin countryside on more than one front. The Afrin front has witnessed dangerous developments this week with the Syrian government sending “popular” armed forces to support the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in confronting Turkish forces and armed opposition factions. A number of YPG fighters have been transferred from Aleppo to Afrin. Turkey threatened that its forces will target any party that provides support for Kurdish forces, adding that such a step may lead to a “catastrophe.” (AFP)
In the same context, the Turkish army bombed a convoy heading to Afrin. Ankara said that it carried fighters and weapons, whereas Kurdish forces said that it carried civilians bringing food and medicine. (Reuters)
In line with the contradictions of the Syrian tragedy, the Turkish Foreign Ministry welcomed in a statement on Sunday “the resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in response to the deteriorating humanitarian conditions throughout Syria, and especially in eastern Ghouta.” However, the Foreign Ministry added that Turkey “remains determined to combat terrorist organizations that threaten the territorial and political integrity in Syria.” Without directly referring to the Security Council Resolution, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized that there will be no truce in the Turkish military operation in Afrin, north of Syria. (AFP)
In a new development, Turkey demanded the extradition of the Syrian Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim who was arrested in Prague, after Turkey put him on the list of terrorists. The Democratic Society Movement, a coalition of mainly Kurdish parties that administers areas controlled by Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, announced the arrest of Muslim in the Czech capital on Saturday night, in a statement published in Beirut, Lebanon. (AFP)