[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Syria and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Media Roundup Editors or of Salon Syria. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week’s roundup to info@SalonSyria.com by Monday night of every week.]

 

Inside Syria

Syrian Observatory: bombing kills 71 in east Ghouta in past day (19 February 2018) A surge in attacks by the Syrian government and its allies has killed 71 people in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta pocket near Damascus in 24 hours

Dozens of civilians killed in Eastern Ghouta strikes (19 February 2018) Bombardments by Syrian government forces have killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus, activists say.

More bombs hit Syria’s Ghouta, death toll highest since 2013 (20 February 2018) Pro-government forces pounded the rebel-held district of eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, in a surge of violence that a war monitor said had killed at least 250 people since Sunday night.

There are no longer any words to describe Syria’s horror (21 February 2018) The desperate situation, and the near-total absence of any sign that further violence can be avoided, prompted UNICEF, the UN’s Children’s Fund, to issue a blank statement headed simply, “The war on children in Syria: Reports of mass casualties among children in Eastern Ghouta and Damascus.”

Syrian Militias Enter Afrin, Dealing a Setback to Turkey (22 February 2018) Militias loyal to the Syrian government swept into the northwestern enclave of Afrin on Thursday in support of Kurdish militias, reclaiming the territory and stealing a march on Turkish forces that have been battling toward the city for nearly a month.

Why leaving Ghouta is not an option (22 February 2018) The majority of rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta think their only option, despite the odds, is to survive long enough until things change

What’s Behind Egypt’s Rush to Rebuild Syria? (22 February 2018) Both the Assad regime and its foes in the region could be banking on Cairo to facilitate the right conditions for a profitable reconstruction, Enab Baladi writes.

Turkish forces shell convoy headed to Syria’s Afrin region (23 February 2018) The Turkish army struck a convoy entering Syria’s Kurdish-held Afrin region, which Ankara said carried fighters and weapons but Kurdish forces said was made up of civilians entering with food and medicine.

Refugee family renews century-old ties on Crete (23 February 2018) After fleeing the conflict in Syria with his family, Ahmed has rediscovered his roots on the Greek island of Crete.

The Arabic version of this article can be found here: عائلة سورية تعود إلى “أرض الأجداد” في جزيرة كريت اليونانية

Understanding Eastern Ghouta in Syria (23 February 2018) The UN says nearly 400,000 civilians are trapped in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, the latest battleground in a series of bloody rebel defeats in Syria’s cities. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his Russian allies seem poised for a major ground offensive on the besieged insurgent enclave. What do we know?

Get underground or die in the streets – the choice in Eastern Ghouta (23 February 2018) Syrian civilians are forced into makeshift underground shelters under the streets of Douma – above them is only death.

Air strikes in Eastern Ghouta ‘kill 500’ (24 February 2018) Syrian government forces have killed more than 500 civilians during a week of intense bombardment of a rebel enclave near Damascus, activists say.

New UN truce plea as deaths in Eastern Ghouta mount (26 February 2018) The UN has renewed its appeal for an immediate truce in the besieged Syrian rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, amid reports of more deaths in air strikes.

Dozens killed in East Ghouta after Security Council demands ceasefire: ‘Planes never left the skies’ (26 February 2018) Pro-government airstrikes and shelling killed at least 33 civilians in East Ghouta on Monday, the Civil Defense told Syria Direct, two days after the United Nations Security Council demanded a halt to hostilities in the besieged rebel enclave.

Russian truce plan fails to halt bombing of Syria’s Ghouta (27 February 2018) A Russian call for a five-hour truce on Tuesday failed to halt one of the most devastating campaigns of the Syrian war, where residents said government warplanes resumed striking the eastern Ghouta region on Tuesday after a brief lull.

 

Regional and International Perspectives

Is Russia Seeking a Peaceful Path? (16 February 2018) Frederic C. Hof  writes: “Between Moscow and Washington there is agreement on the desirability of a Syria reflecting territorial integrity, stability, empowered local governance, legitimate national governance, an active civil society, and a country rebuilding its physical infrastructure and its sense of shared citizenship.”

To Push Iran Back, Israel Ramps Up Support for Syrian Rebels, ‘Arming 7 Different Groups’ (20 February 2018) With the Assad regime’s advances the civil war and America’s reduced involvement in the region, Israel has been forced to make significant changes in its policies in the Golan Heights.

U.N. issues blank statement on Syria, says it has run out of words (20 February 2018) The U.N. children’s fund UNICEF issued a blank “statement” on Tuesday to express its outrage at mass casualties among Syrian children in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta and neighboring Damascus.

From Astana to Sochi: How de-escalation allowed Assad to return to war (20 February 2018) What is foreseen for Syria under a Russian-led process – now that Geneva has been sidelined – is a tarting-up and reselling of the old order.

‘Complete madness’: Reported rebel shelling leaves more than a dozen dead in government-held Damascus city (21 February 2018) Mortar shells reportedly launched by rebels in East Ghouta killed more than a dozen civilians in government-held Damascus over the past 48 hours, in what humanitarian officials called some of the most intense shelling on the Syrian capital in months.

The West won’t stop the horrors in Syria even if it could. We simply don’t care (24 February 2018) Hot on the heels of the UN’s well-meaning intransigence comes the US State Department, who only a few weeks ago articulated a multi-point strategy for Syria so wide and all-encompassing that it essentially committed the US to a more or less permanent presence in the country — as well as Assad’s departure.

Qatar’s Emir: Attacks on Eastern Ghouta ‘crime against humanity’ (25 February 2018) Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani calls on international community to assume protection of civilians in Syria.

Why Erdogan may accept the Syrian army taking control of Afrin (26 February 2018) Turkey has no interest in fighting the Syrian military as long as the YPG is ousted from its south-eastern border.

Putin orders Eastern Ghouta ‘humanitarian pause’ (26 February 2018) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered a daily humanitarian pause in fighting in the Eastern Ghouta enclave in Syria.

Turkey sends ‘Kurdish Falcon’ force to Afrin to counter anti-Kurd image (26 February 2018) Force of 400 ethnic Kurds to enter Syrian enclave, days after Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops would besiege Afrin city

‘Mass psychosis’ in Eastern Ghouta? (26 February 2018) Russia’s attempts to whitewash the gravity of the situation in Eastern Ghouta are emblematic of ‘post-truth’ logic.

 

Policy and Reports

The United States Used Depleted Uranium in Syria (14 February 2018) The airstrikes on oil trucks in Islamic State-controlled areas employed the toxic material, which has been accused of causing cancer and birth defects.

Weak U.S. Response to Russian Proxies Undermines Deterrence in Middle East and Eastern Europe (16 February 2018) The Russian Wagner private military company and Lebanese Hezbollah attacked U.S. and partner forces in Eastern Syria on February 7, 2018. Wagner is part of the business empire belonging to Putin ally Evgeni Prigozhin, whom Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted on February 16.

The al Qaeda Blind Spot for the U.S. Approach to Turkey (16 February 2018) Turkey continues to prioritize its objectives to replace the Assad regime with a government friendly to Turkey’s interests and to eradicate a safe haven for the YPG’s Turkey affiliate—the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—in Syria. Turkey prioritizes these objectives over U.S. counterterrorism goals against ISIS or al Qaeda.

‘No choice’: Syrians travel from one rebel area to another to find medicine (18 February 2018) Syrians who suffer from chronic illnesses are moving from one rebel area to another in search of medicine.

The Factory: A Glimpse Into Syria’s War Economy  (21 February 2018) War is big business. Since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, conflict traders have worked with regime and rebel commanders to take control of natural resources and markets, often giving rise to bizarre joint ventures between avowed enemies.

‘We can change this reality’: the women sharing news of war in Ghouta (24 February 2018) As bombs fall on the besieged area of Syria, women’s voices are at the forefront.

UN Security Council votes in favour of 30-day Syria ceasefire (24 February 2018) A unanimously approved resolution, drafted by Sweden and Kuwait, to enable aid deliveries and medical evacuations.

Rescuers in Syria’s Ghouta unable to count dead as bombing continues (24 February 2018) Five hundred civilians have been killed in the Syrian rebel-held enclave according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

International open letter calls for end to ‘Syrian genocide’ (27 February 2018) A letter, signed by over 200 artists, writers and musicians, says governments should take steps to stop the bloodshed.

Exclusive: Chemical weapons watchdog investigates Ghouta attacks – sources (27 February 2018) The world’s chemical weapons watchdog opened an investigation on Sunday into attacks in the besieged, rebel-held Syrian region of eastern Ghouta to determine whether banned munitions had been used, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Women in Syria ‘forced to exchange sexual favours’ for UN aid (27 February 2018) Women in refugee camps in Syria have been forced to offer sexual favours in return for aid from the United Nations, a report has found, in the latest accusation to hit the sector.

 

Documentaries, Special Reports, and Other Media

Damascus Room Completed at Last (14 February 2018) The room was relatively complete, lacking only its wood ceiling and certain architectural elements inherent to the structure of the house from which it was removed (such as the clerestory), and this, along with its comparatively fine condition, helped with the task.

Surviving as a child in the longest military siege in modern history  (18 February 2018) Speaking to 15-year-old Muhammed Najem, she explains what life is like for children growing up in the Eastern Ghouta siege.

Syria’s brides searching for love online (19 February 2018) As conditions in Syria worsen, women are connecting with their future partners online.

Research on Syria and What Syrians Want – A Conversation between Bassam Haddad and Rabie Nasr  (20 February 2018) This is a conversation between Bassam Haddad and Rabie Nasr on the activities and research of the Syrian Center for Policy Research and on critical issues related to the Syrian Uprising, including its causes and the polemics surrounding where Syrians stand six years on. It was conducted in Arabic in April 2017.

‘How I joined the jihadis by mistake’  (25 February 2018) More than 300 people from Kosovo went to join Islamists fighting “holy war” in Syria and Iraq – per capita the highest number in Europe. But not all of them match the popular image of a jihadi, as Helen Nianias discovered when she met a hipsterish young man for coffee in the Kosovan capital, Pristina.

Zanzibar’s tiny Syrian refugee community seeks slice of paradise (26 February 2018) There are just a few hundred Syrians in Tanzania and while some have managed to settle in, others struggle to find work.

Airwars monthly assessment: January 2018 (22 February 2018) Since the capture of Raqqa on October 20th marked the end of large-scale Coalition-backed urban fighting, the war against ISIS has entered a new stage. Both the Syrian and Iraqi governments have declared victory against ISIS as a territorial entity, though the Coalition remains active in both countries. Even as Airwars tracks a dramatic fall in civilian casualty events attributed to the alliance, its mission to monitor all casualty allegations from international actions remains unchanged.

Refugees and Trump’s America rule 2018 Berlin Film Festival (26 February 2018) The 2018 Berlinale did not break away from tradition, offering the same hefty plate of politics and society’s ills.

U.N. Links North Korea to Syria’s Chemical Weapon Program (27 February 2018) North Korea has been shipping supplies to the Syrian government that could be used in the production of chemical weapons, United Nations experts contend.

WATCH: Why Iran Backed Assad in Syria (27 February 2018) In part two of the FRONTLINE series, Bitter Rivals: Iran and Saudi Arabia, correspondent Martin Smith reports from inside regime-held areas in Syria on the conflict’s roots — and explores how Iran’s support for the Assad regime has helped fuel one of the most brutal wars in modern times.

 

Maps

Syria Situation Report: February 7 – 21, 2018 (21 February 2018) These graphics depict significant developments in the Syrian Civil War from February 7 – 21, 2018. The control of terrain represented on the graphics is accurate as of February 22, 2018.

Syria’s civil war explained from the beginning (22 February 2018) In March, the Syrian conflict will enter its 8th year. Meanwhile, more than 465,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting, over a million injured, and over 12 million – half the country’s prewar population – have been displaced from their homes.

Under Siege: Syria’s Eastern Ghouta (26 February 2018) The suburb, 15km east of Damascus has an estimated population of 400,000, who have been under siege since 2013.

Eastern Ghouta: What is happening and why (26 February 2018) As a humanitarian ‘catastrophe’ unfolds in a rebel-held enclave outside Syria’s Damascus, Al Jazeera explains.

Syrian civil war map: Who controls what? (26 February 2018)A map of the Syrian civil war that shows who controls what after years of fighting.

 

Syria Conflict Quick Update: February 26 (26 February 2018)

The Carter Center: Syria Conflict Mapping Project Reports. Feb. 15-21, 2018 | Weekly Conflict Summary (26 February 2018) During this reporting period, the government siege and bombardment of Eastern Ghouta intensified significantly, resulting in one of the deadliest periods of bombardment to date. In northern Syria, two prominent opposition groups in the opposition-held Idleb pocket announced their unification as they launched attacks against Hai’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra). Operation Olive Branch, the ongoing Turkish-led offensive into Afrin, continued to gain territory this week amid numerous diplomatic discussions between NATO allies about the continuing fight.

Turkey Clears First Hurdle in Northern Syria’s Afrin (26 February 2018) Turkish forces and Turkish-backed rebels seized the final stretch of the Syria-Turkey border in Afrin from the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on February 26, 2018. The seizure of the border accomplishes the first of five assessed Turkish operational objectives in Afrin. The next two assessed operational objectives are to isolate Afrin City and secure ground lines of communication to the border.

Shelling continues despite Putin’s call for ‘humanitarian pause’ in Syria (27 February 2018) Shelling and artillery fire continued in Syria’s besieged rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday, interrupting a five-hour “humanitarian pause” ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

 

Arabic links

تحقيق خاص – تل الزعتر.. خفايا المعركة

 (18 February 2018)
سلط برنامج “تحقيق خاص” الضوء على المعركة التي شهدها مخيم تل الزعتر للاجئين الفلسطينيين في لبنان خلال الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية.

السوريات والقرار 1325

 (19 February 2018)

ورغم أن القرار 1325 لم يقدم خدمة مباشرة للسوريات، لا في خدمة النساء والفتيات في أوقات النزاع، ولا في حمايتهن من تبعات النزاع المسلح، لكنه يبقى قراراً مهماً يؤكد على الدور الهام للمرأة في بناء السلام وحفظ وتعزيز السلام والأمن، وعلى ضرورة مشاركة النساء في كل مراحل عملية السلام.

فيتو روسي على «تفاهم» عفرين… وفجوة أميركية ـ تركية حول منبج

 (20 February 2018)

عقد في حلب اجتماع ثلاثي ضم ممثلي «وحدات حماية الشعب» الكردية، وقوات الحكومة السورية، والجيش الروسي، لبحث ترتيبات متعلقة بعفرين شمال غربي حلب، في وقت جرت فيه اجتماعات بين مسؤولين في الجيشين الأميركي والتركي لبحث ترتيبات تتعلق بمدينة منبج شمال شرقي حلب.

حرب عفرين تفتتح مرحلة «الأردوغانية» وتختتم «الأتاتوركية» المترهلة

 (23 February 2018)

بعد مرور شهر على عملية «غصن الزيتون» ما زالت تركيا ورقة روسية قوية في وجه أميركا، لذلك تضغط روسيا بكل قوة على النظام السوري لضمان أن تكون صيغة الاتفاق بين النظام ووحدات حماية الشعب استسلامية وليست «شراكة ضد الاحتلال التركي»، ذلك أن أي صيغة غير الاستسلام تضر بمكانة أردوغان داخل تركيا، وتضعف الآمال الروسية في وضع تركيا وجهاً لوجه أمام أميركا.

فرع أكاديميّة باشاك شهير التركيّة في مدينة الباب… الوحيد الذي يقدّم شهادات جامعيّة معترف بها

 (23 February 2018)

افتتحت أكاديميّة باشاك شهير-فرع الباب بمساعدة تركيا، باعتبار المنطقة تتبع إلى النفوذ التركيّ، لكنّها تفرض رسوماً كبيرة بالنسبة إلى الطلّاب، ولا بدّ من وجود جامعات معترف بها عالميّاً تؤمّن فرصة التعليم الجامعيّ لآلاف الطلّاب من حملة الشهادات الثانويّة في منطقة درع الفرات، وإلّا سيبقى الخيار المفضّل لهؤلاء السفر لإكمال الدراسة.

The English version of this article can be found here:

Students in northern Syria depend on Turkey to complete degrees

صالح مسلم في شباك تفاهم أميركي ــ تركي

 (26 February 2018)

لا أحد يدري ما إذا كان الزعيم الكردي السوري صالح مسلم محمد قد سيق إلى كمين تركي في براغ. تزخر أحداث ليلة العاصمة التشيكية بألغاز المؤامرة التقليدية وفرضيتها. وقد تكون فصولها قد حيكت بين الأجهزة الأمنية التركية والتشيكية، قبل أن يقرع زوار الفجر التشيكيون باب غرفة فندق ماريوت لتكبيل نزيلها الذي قاد حزب «الاتحاد الديمقراطي» سبعة أعوام متصلة بين خريفي ٢٠١٠ و٢٠١٧، جاعلاً من فرع حزب العمال الكردستاني في سوريا حليفاً كبيراً للولايات المتحدة في الحرب على «داعش»، وعاملاً على تأسيس مشروع كردي في شمال سوريا

يوميات سورية: المواصلات في دمشق

 (27 February 2018)

غلاء أسعار المازوت وقلة الكمية الممنوحة للسائقين بالسعر النظامي، الأغاني الهابطة والشتائم، القذارة والروائح القاتلة نتيجة الازدحام وتراجع شروط النظافة الشخصية، توهان الركاب وأسئلتهم المتكررة عن وجهتهم وطلبهم للمساعدة في الهبوط والصعود، أطفال مكدّسون مع أمهم لتوفير ما يمكن من أجرة مقعدٍ بات الجلوس عليه بطراً وامتيازاً لا قدرة للبشر على ممارسته. إنها أزمة يومية خانقة حتى حدود المهانة، ولا شيء يشي بانفراجٍ نسبي يُزيح عن السكان مرارة الانتقال. معاركٌ يومية بأدوات غير عسكرية، لكنها مهينة وقاتلة.

الغوطة من خلال ثماني عيون

 (27 February 2018)

رزان زيتونة، سميرة الخليل، وائل حمادة وناظم حمادة، امرأتان ورجلان تم اختطافهم في 7 كانون الأول ـ ديسمبر 2013 من مكتب توثيق الانتهاكات، في مدينة دوما، في غوطة دمشق الشرقية، حيث كانوا يعملون كناشطين في صفوف الثورة السورية.

غوطة دمشق الشرقية… صمت ونار وحصار

 (27 February 2018)

لا يملك المدنيون في الغوطة الشرقية – يبلغ تعدادهم حوالي ٣٥٠ ألف – ملاجئ سوى بعض أقبية الأبنية، يحاولون الابتعاد قدر المستطاع عن الإصابة المباشرة بالشظايا والصواريخ المتعددة أسماؤُها وراجماتها، وتلك الأقبية – إن وُجِدت – ليست بآمنة كليّاً، فكثير من الأبنية تهاوت فوق رؤوس قاطنيها ودفنت من كان في الأقبية وهم أحياء.

وطن.. بالعين المجردة: معبد عين دارة ضحية أخرى للحرب السورية

 (27 February 2018)

بالعودة إلى عين دارة فهو موقعٌ جديد يضاف إلى قائمة المواقع التي شهدت الأيام الأخيرة مجزرة بحق الحجارة والقدسية التي وسمت المكان. أحاول في هذا المقال توثيق آثار المعبد ووصف أهميتها التي لن يتسنى للأجيال القادمة للأسف رؤية بعض أجزائه الفريدة التي دُمرت إثر الحملة العسكرية التركية على عفرين والحرب السورية التي أتت على عددٍ كبير من آثار هذه البلاد المنكوبة. كما سأحاول تسليط الضوء على الأجزاء التي تعرّضت للتدمير إثر الضربة الجوية مع التأكيد على عدم كفاية هذا التحليل دون المعاينة المباشرة من قبل آثاريين لتقييم الضرر وتوثيقه ودراسة إمكانيات الصيانة والترميم. وأختتم المقال بالتحدث قليلاً عن زيارة قصيرة للمعبد، لكنها مكثفة في الذاكرة.

سورية في ذكرى الوحدة

 (28 February 2018)

اكتملت ستون عامًا على تلك المحاولة العجولة لتشكيل وحدة بين بلدين عربيين، سورية  ومصر. كانت الوحدة حاجة عاطفية بالدرجة الأولى لشعبي البلدين، بعد التحرّر من الاحتلالات، ونيل الاستقلال، والتطلع إلى نهضة توصل البلاد إلى أولى الخطوات في السير في ركب الحضارة. فما الذي حدث، وجعل الولادة تنتهي بوليدٍ معاق غير قابل للحياة، فمات ولم يتجاوز سن الفطام بعد؟

[This article is published jointly in partnership with Jadaliyya.]