[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 Syria Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send your own recommendations for inclusion in each week's roundup to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday night of every week.]
Assad retakes M5 highway at great cost to civilians (28 February, 2020) The Syrian government has taken control of the Damascus-Aleppo highway for the first time in eight years, but the cities and towns along this critical M5 have been devastated by the regime's brutal march toward victory.
Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces claim gains in Idlib (27 February, 2020) The Syrian military has launched a new ground offensive in south Idlib to take control of the key M4 highway and says it is making major gains against the opposition. Syrian rebels backed by Turkey claim to have retaken the key town of Saraqeb in northwestern Idlib province today in what would be a major blow to Damascus following the government forces' latest offensive on the last rebel-held territory in the country.
Real estate market booms as wave of displaced flock into Syria’s al-Bab (27 February, 2020) The city of al-Bab in Aleppo’s northeastern countryside is welcoming thousands of displaced persons who are fleeing the fighting in Idlib and western Aleppo and searching for housing.
Turkey-backed forces accused of cutting water to Syrian Kurdish-run region (25 February, 2020) Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces have reportedly stopped a pumping station in Ras al-Ain from providing water to hundreds of thousands of people including internally displaced Syrians and Islamic State captives and their families.
Arabs need leadership role in Deir ez-Zor, says council chief (25 February, 2020) Eastern Deir ez-Zor continues to experience frequent attacks, presumably by the Islamic State (IS), and locals mistrust the Syrian Democratic Forces' control over it.
Will Manbij fighters heed the call to return home? (24 February, 2020) The Manbij Military Council has again called for the return home of Manbij residents fighting with Turkish-backed Syrian opposition factions in the areas seized in Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, requesting that they stop furthering Turkey's occupation of Syrian territory.
Syrian crossings reopen, freeing up flow of people, goods (23 February, 2020) Activity has gotten back to normal at two crossings linking areas in northeast Aleppo province controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with those held by armed opposition factions.
Damascus brushes off Ankara’s threats as Assad’s forces make gains in Aleppo (21 February, 2020) Syrian forces have expelled opposition factions twelve miles from the vicinity of the city of Aleppo, opening the highway between Aleppo and Damascus at a time when Ankara is stepping up its rhetoric and threatening to launch a military attack.
In Idlib, children are cast into the unknown (20 February, 2020) The abandonment of newborns is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon in Syria, mainly due to extreme poverty. Mothers have left their children—some only hours or days old—at the doorsteps of mosques, in public parks, or even on the side of the road to be taken into the care of locals who stumble upon them.
Syrian army makes gains in Idlib, opposition blames Turkey (19 February, 2020) Syrian opposition groups wonder what value the Turkish observation posts and the Turkish army have in Idlib, as the Syrian regime forces make great advances in the area.
Displaced yet again, Syrians flee Idlib for Manbij (18 February, 2020) Families displaced from Idlib province continue to arrive in Manbij, fleeing the fierce fighting between Russian-backed Syrian regime forces on one side and Syrian opposition factions and jihadist groups on the other.
Opposition helpless to stop regime advances in Idlib (18 February, 2020) The Syrian regime's progress in Idlib and control of the key city of Saraqeb on the Aleppo-Damascus highway have marked a turning point in its fight against the Turkish-backed opposition.
Raqqa seeks to repair what IS ruined (17 February, 2020) The Religious Affairs Foundation in Raqqa held its first Islamic forum as part of efforts to correct the religious concepts that the Islamic State misinterpreted and practiced, in an attempt to bridge the gap that IS created among the Syrian communities.
Syrian shelling in Idlib knocks out dozens of medical facilities (16 February, 2020) The opposition in Idlib province accuses Syrian and Russian warplanes of deliberately shelling hospitals and medical facilities in the province and its surroundings, pushing thousands to flee.
‘There’s no mercy’: Kurdish Red Crescent perseveres in northern Syria (12 February, 2020) Heyva Sor a Kurdistane, the Kurdish Red Crescent, has been on the frontlines of the Syrian civil war for the past eight years, emerging as the primary provider of medical care and aid for civilians wounded during battles and for the waves of displaced people fleeing fighting in the northeast.
SDF benefits from letting IS prisoners go, capturing more (11 February, 2020) The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been cracking down on civilians accused of being affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) even as the SDF has been releasing IS prisoners. The apparent contradiction seems motivated by money, engendering goodwill with local tribal leaders and justifying the SDF's continuing control of certain regions.
Clash with Syrian regime forces kills five Turkish troops in Idlib (10 February, 2020) Syrian regime forces have killed five Turkish soldiers in the rebel-held province of Idlib in an escalation that highlights Turkey’s failure to persuade Russia to pause hostilities.
Syrian Kurds seek relief from plummeting pound (10 February, 2020) Inhabitants of Qamishli in Syrian Kurdistan have been struggling with poverty and the inability to buy basic provisions due to the high cost of living and extreme depreciation of the Syrian pound. In late November, the exchange rate began to exceed one thousand pounds to the dollar.
Waves of displacement continue amid Idlib escalation (9 February, 2020) Idlib residents continue to flee toward the border with Turkey as Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air strikes, advance on the country’s last opposition stronghold.
Syria’s Kurds embrace resilience, beauty in wake of Turkish attack (7 February, 2020) Turkey's invasion of northeastern Syria has changed the lives of Kurdish residents in myriad ways, from a bump in confidence-boosting cosmetic surgery to pervasive anxiety over whether Turkey will strike again.
Reconstructing the nation, one dome at a time (6 February, 2020) In a country like Syria, even something as seemingly benign as repairing a church or a mosque takes on political dimensions. As sites like the Armenian Bethel Church and the Great Mosque of Aleppo undergo renovations in formerly rebel-held territories, narratives of the Syrian government’s victory are reinforced while the revolution is relegated to the past.
Protests in Daraa: Russia absent as Damascus weaponizes ‘tribal schisms’ (5 February, 2020) Despite the agreement, Damascus did not seem interested in supporting regional stability during its first month of rule over southern Syria. Arrests of opposition members continued and their property was confiscated and seized, further motivating continuing and mounting popular discontent.
The rivaling philosophies of Barzani and Ocalan weigh over Syria’s Kurds (3 February, 2020) The division between supporters of Barzani and Ocalan became more visible after the establishment of the KNC on 26 October 2015. The KNC was formed by eleven parties, along with the support of the then-President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani.
Regional and International Perspectives
Pentagon dismisses Syria re-engagement amid Idlib showdown (26 February, 2020) The US administration shot down the idea that it will send troops back into Syria amid assurances from the secretary of state that the United States is "working" with Turkey on the "complicated" situation.
Erdogan renews threat to hit Syrian troops to stop advance in Idlib (26 February, 2020) The Turkish president has again warned Syria it has until the end of this month to halt its Russia-backed offensive against opposition forces that has pushed nearly a million people to the Turkish border.
Pompeo calls for Idlib cease-fire (25 February, 2020) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today called for a permanent cease-fire in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, warning that a Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive that has driven a million civilians to flee toward the Turkish border could grow to imperil three million people.
Is Russia cozying up to Syria’s Kurds amid rift with Turkey? (20 February, 2020) The United States has reportedly cautioned the Kurds not to fight Turkey in any potential escalation in Syria, but Russia appears to have moved closer to the Kurds, as suggested by Kurdish collaboration with the Syrian army in areas along Idlib’s boundaries with Afrin.
What a Russian-Turkish compromise on Idlib may look like (20 February, 2020) Although a new round of Russia-Turkey talks on Idlib failed, there are still ways to settle the conflict. The second stage of the Russian-Turkish talks on Idlib ended in Moscow 18 February with no agreement between the parties.
Intel: What’s behind Erdogan’s latest threat of imminent attack in Syria (19 February, 2020) Erdogan has set an end of February deadline for Russian-backed Syrian government forces to pull out of territory they captured in recent weeks. These include the strategic M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus and territory surrounding ten Turkish military observation posts in Idlib.
Turkey’s opposition parties call for dialogue with Assad (18 February, 2020) Turkey's opposition parties have called on the Turkish government to engage in dialogue with the Damascus administration to prevent further Turkish casualties in Idlib.
Ankara shifts gears to cease-fire in Syria (13 February, 2020) Turkey's tone has softened on its military confrontation with Syria with Defense Minister Hulusi Akar telling fellow NATO ministers in Brussels that Ankara sent five thousand additional troops to the rebel-held province "to secure a lasting cease-fire."
Erdogan vies for leverage in Syria’s Idlib as Turkish troops reinforce positions (12 February, 2020) Following recent clashes between Syrian and Turkish troops, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down on threats to retaliate against the ongoing regime offensive in Idlib.
Turkey, Syrian regime at last exit before all-out confrontation (10 February, 2020) The following weeks will be crucial for Turkey, Russia and the Syrian government as Idlib escalation threatens to provoke an all-out confrontation between Ankara and Damascus.
US envoy presses Russia to halt Syrian offensive on Idlib (5 February, 2020) A top US envoy today pressed Russia to get the Syrian regime to halt a military offensive into the northwestern Syrian enclave of Idlib that has driven some half a million people to flee their homes since December.
Turkey says dozens killed in clashes with Syrian troops (3 February, 2020) Turkey shelled some fifty Syrian government targets after its soldiers came under attack in Idlib province in a fight that threatens to drag Turkey deeper into the prolonged conflict and undermine its relations with Russia.
Policy and Reports
Syria Situation Report: February 5 - 18, 2020 (21 February, 2020) The following Syria Situation Report (SITREP) Map summarizes significant developments in the war in Syria during the period 5 - 18 February 2020.
Syria Situation Report: January, 21 - February 4, 2020 (7 February, 2020) The following Syria Situation Report (SITREP) Map summarizes significant developments in the war in Syria during the period 21 January - 4 February 2020.
Documentaries, Special Media, and Other Media
الأسد يهنئ أهل حلب
(17 February, 2020)
هنأ الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، اليوم الاثنين، في كلمة متلفزة أهالي حلب بمناسبة تحرير مناطق ريفي حلب الغربي والشمالي الغربي، متعهدا بمواصلة تحرير كامل الأراضي السورية. وأكد الأسد أن وفاء أهل حلب للوطن والجيش قلب حسابات الأعداء، مشيرا إلى أن حلب دفعت ثمنا كبيرا
حق المواطن في الإعلام
(21 January, 2020)
الضيوف: حاكم مصرف سورية المركزي د. حازم قرفول - المدير العام للشركة السورية للمدفوعات الالكترونية د. أيمن ملوك
Syria Conflict Mapping Project | WEEKLY CONFLICT SUMMARY | 17 - 23 FEBRUARY 2020 Clashes between Turkish and Syrian government forces continued in the northwest, and ISIS activity was reported in central Syria. There were a series of elevated attacks around the Turkish Operation Peace Spring area called the “buffer zone” in the northeast.
Syria Conflict Mapping Project | WEEKLY CONFLICT SUMMARY | 10 - 16 FEBRUARY 2020 The Syrian government completed its capture of the M5 highway in the northwest, while attacks against government personnel continued in southern and central Syria. Turkish-backed opposition forces continued their shelling of locations around the Operation Peace Spring areas in the northeast.
Syria Conflict Mapping Project | WEEKLY CONFLICT SUMMARY | 3 - 9 FEBRUARY 2020 Syrian government forces captured the majority of the M5 highway in the northwest, while an improvised explosive device detonated in the capital of Damascus. Meanwhile, Turkish-backed groups and Kurdish groups clashed in the northeast.
Syria Conflict Mapping Project | WEEKLY CONFLICT SUMMARY | 27 JANUARY – 2 FEBRUARY 2020 Syrian government forces reach Saraqeb City in northwest Syria. Attacks against Syrian government personnel continued in central and southern Syria, while Turkish-backed opposition groups made limited advances in the northeast.