Agriculture and fishing
Agriculture has traditionally been the backbone of the Syrian economy, and the government has strived for the country to be self-sufficient on the most important crops. But during the civil war many farms were destroyed by the fighting, peasants were forced to flee and systems for irrigation were razed or broken.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Syria. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
On the usually fertile soil closest to the coast and in the valley around the Orontes river, fruit, olives, tobacco and cotton are normally grown. On the high plateau from the border with Jordan to the valley of the Euphrates, the traditionally most important agricultural area, cereals are the main crop. Cotton is grown in al-Jazira, the area between the Euphrates and Tigris in the northeast. Cereals have been grown almost exclusively for domestic use, while cotton, fruits and vegetables have been important export crops.
The civil war that has raged in Syria since 2011, with many fronts in different parts of the country, has caused agricultural production to fall to record lows. Fields can sometimes not be threatened because of combat actions and mining, and ammunition of various kinds pollutes the soil. In rebel-controlled areas, organizations such as the White Helmets (which make emergency life-saving efforts) have reported that the government side has used burnt-out tactics: it has set fire to wheat fields to fight its opponents. Since the regime in 2018, a number of rebel-controlled areas recaptured and forcibly relocated rebels to Idlib in the north-west, conditions have stabilized where the fighting ended. The UN organizations FAO and WFP estimated this year’s wheat harvest to be 2.2 million tonnes in 2019, almost doubling from 2018 (1.2 million tonnes). But before the war, Syria’s average annual wheat production was 4.1 million tonnes. So access to the basic commodity is still insufficient (and international sanctions make it difficult for the Assad regime to replace the lapses with imports). For Syria defense and foreign policy, please check recipesinthebox.
Agricultural organization FAO has in recent years estimated that agriculture accounts for over a quarter of the country’s economy, yet only half of the Syrians left in the country can meet their daily food needs. Before the war, Syria had built up a lace reserve that could last for a year, but it has run out or been conquered by rebels, dispersed or sold on. Grain shortages and rising bread prices are a major problem even in opposition controlled areas.
Most of the land is privately owned, but the state controls the market through subsidies and price and sales regulations. The prices set on cereals and sugar beets, for example, are often above the world market price. Irrigation systems were greatly expanded in the early 1990s, but this was not enough to secure agricultural returns. Only 20-30 percent of agricultural land has irrigation and leaking pipes also mean that water is wasted. The government has initiated several projects to increase the area of artificial irrigation, but the war has hindered these plans. During the years 2006-2010, Syria suffered from severe drought, especially in the country’s north-eastern parts, which forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their fields and move to other parts of the country. Natural resources and energy).
Large parts of Syria are normally suitable for livestock breeding, especially the Bedouin sheep farming. The breeding of cattle is concentrated in irrigated areas. Animal herds decreased sharply even before the war due to the drought.
Certain fishing occurs along the coast with Tartus as the main port and the Euphrates with tributaries.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
19.5 percent (2007)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
75.8 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of SYR stands for the state of Syria in geography.
Lower death rates, mobilized return to civilian life
The conflict in Syria claimed 19,666 lives in 2018, according to SOHR. About 6,350 of the deaths were civilian, but the death tolls are the lowest since the civil war broke out in 2011 and can be seen as a sign that the war is about to end as the Assad regime regains control of more parts of the country. The government army has also in several steps engaged military personnel who have been mobilized during the war. According to SOHR, the regime holds just over 60 percent of the country’s area.
Kurds give up strategic city
Syria’s army raises its flag in the city of Manbij near the Turkish border held by Kurdish forces backed by the United States. The Kurdish forces have agreed to surrender the city to the government army rather than being exposed to the new offensive that Turkey is threatening. According to the message in Manbij, President Assad’s forces should not be placed in the city itself.
Concerns and protests against Trump’s decision
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis resigns in protest of Trump’s decision to take Syria’s ground troops home. The same message comes after a couple of days from Brett McGurk, who represented the United States in the alliance fighting IS. Israel is also worried because the retreat is feared to create a vacuum that Iran can use to strengthen its presence in Syria. But above all, protests and accusations of betrayal come from the Kurdish forces who have played a prominent role in the war efforts against IS.
US soil forces are called home
President Trump announces that US ground troops will be taken home. Soldiers have assisted Kurdish-Arab forces fighting IS and Trump considers the fighting resolved. In practice, the 2,000 Americans have at the same time provided protection for the Kurds, who are otherwise threatened by attacks both from Turkey and from the Russian-backed Syrian regime – both oppose the self-government Kurds are building in northern Syria. The risk of harming Americans is likely to deter both Turkey and Russia from attacking Kurdish forces. Trump’s decision raises concerns, especially as Turkey has threatened a new offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria. The United States has also approved a major arms deal with Turkey, which is allowed to buy American robots.
Careful return from Jordan
About 28,000 Syrians have returned home from refugee lives in Jordan since the border between the countries reopened in mid-October. The UN expects return to increase in 2019, as the fighting has decreased. In total, in the neighboring countries, the UN has registered 5.6 million Syrian refugees. At the same time, there are 6.6 million internally displaced people in Syria, and that number has even increased despite the fact that the war situation is now less dramatic. It is all the relocations to, above all, Idlib that have occurred as a result of the government offensives that have increased the number of refugees.
New minister on sanctions list
One-third of Bashar al-Assad’s government ministers are replaced. Interior Minister Muhammad al-Shaar is replaced by Muhammad Khalid al-Rahmun, who has been head of one of the state’s security services and has been on the US sanctions list since last year.
Conflicting about chlorine gas in Aleppo
A suspected chlorine gas attack in Aleppo causes more than a hundred people with breathing problems. The Assad regime and jihadists accuse each other of carrying out the attack. The city itself is controlled by the Syrian government, whose Russian allies carry out air strikes against a rebel stronghold west of Aleppo, citing chlorine gas use.
Prison exchange, but uneasy in buffer zone
A prisoner exchange takes place between the government and rebel forces near the city of al-Bab outside Aleppo. Ten prisoners from each side are handed over, according to SOHR. Turkish sources describe the prison exchange as a confidence-building pilot project. On the same day, a teacher and four students were among the victims of artillery fire near a school in the planned buffer zone between the government army and rebels in Idlib, where ceasefire does not want to appear.
Radio satirists are murdered
Activist Raed Fares, known for running the radio channel Radio Fresh FM, was shot dead along with a friend in Idlib. A surviving colleague says that they were ambushed. The radio channel became known for hacking both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and narrow-minded fundamentalist groups.
Proturean forces in Afrin are fighting each other
In the Afrin enclave in the north, where Syrian militia groups have been fighting on Turkey’s side against Kurdish forces, Turkey’s sympathizers have been in the air. 25 dead are reported when the groups settle into each other about the influence. According to SOHR, it is a new phenomenon, which causes great concern among civilians. The Turkish forces patrolling Afrin announces nighttime curfew (see 19 January, 19 March and 15 July).
Milestone in the US Israel support at the UN
The United States is voting for the first time against an annual UN resolution condemning Israel’s occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967. The occupation has never had international support, and the United States has also raised mild criticism of Israel. Until now, the United States has always cast its vote instead of supporting Israel in the vote.
Palestinians return to camp
Palestinian refugees are expected to return to the Yarmuk camp in southern Damascus, which was severely ravaged during the civil war. Before the war broke out in 2011, Yarmuk housed 160,000 Palestinians, who were refugees from the time of Israel’s founding in 1948. From Yarmuk, most fled again in 2012 and the Islamic State (IS) entered Yarmuk in 2015, but in May 2018 the government army expelled the jihadists. The Assad regime’s Deputy Foreign Minister now states that the government plans to move the Palestinians back to the ghost town. The minister opens for the UN or the Palestinian Authority to build schools and more.
Manbij is patrolled by Turks and Americans
Turkish and US forces jointly patrol the city of Manbij in northern Syria, three miles from the Turkish border. Manbij has previously been controlled by a Kurdish militia, the YPG, which has US support but is seen as terrorists by Turkey (see July 15).
The opposition presents a peace plan
Representations for Syrian opposition groups, gathered in Rome at the Catholic invitation, present their own “Roadmap for Peace” with thoughts on how elections should be held and refugees able to return when the civil war is over. In the coming weeks, they will present their plan to the major powers involved in the Syrian war.
IS offensive – and counter-offensive
Islamic State (IS) recaptures Baghuz in eastern Syria, held by the Kurdish Arab militia SDF, and comes across weapons and vehicles. The village is close to the Iraqi border. IS, which is under pressure in Syria, is believed to want to transfer its remaining forces to western Iraq, where there are still IS strongholds. Behind the new attacks, intentions are also being made to try to enter energy plants in Iraq. During the years when IS subdued large parts of Syria and Iraq, the movement generated revenue by selling oil. On November 3, Iraq responds to the new incident with an offensive to stop IS on its side of the border. The offensive includes both Iraqi government forces and militia fighting for Iran’s interests – including keeping Iraq-Syria roads open for Iranian support to the Assad regime in Syria.
Great powers maneuver out the UN
A summit between Turkey, Russia, France and Germany in Istanbul concludes with a demand that the ceasefire in Idlib must be lasting. The day before, seven civilians were reported killed by government artillery fire. Syria’s UN ambassador has declared that the government sees the buffer zone in Idlib as a temporary solution and that the government will eventually regain control. The Istanbul Summit emphasizes that a committee to work on constitutional issues must be formed before the end of the year. The Syrian government has rejected proposals from the UN mediator de Mistura.
UN envoy leaves assignment
Swedish-Italian diplomat Staffan de Mistura announces that he is leaving the mission as UN Syrian envoy. He has been the third in the post after UN veterans Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, and the UN’s efforts to achieve peace in Syria are slow. de Mistura ends its mission of trying to get the Assad regime to accept the establishment of a post-war commission, which will develop a new constitution and base for elections. Norwegian Jan Egeland, who has led the humanitarian efforts, also leaves his assignment. de Mistura’s successor will be diplomat Geir Pedersen, who was involved in the peace negotiations of Israelis and Palestinians in the 1990s.
Jihadists slow down retreats in Idlib
The agreement on a buffer zone in the Idlib province is to be implemented despite the fact that all rebel forces have not withdrawn their weapons, the Russian government announces. The zone is supposed to separate the regime side’s forces, which have Russian support, from rebel groups, some of which are supported by Turkey. According to the Russian-Turkish agreement, the buffer zone would have been discharged on heavy weapons on 15 October (see 1 August and 17 September).
Important border crossing opened
The most important border crossing between Syria and Jordan opens again. Transition through the Nasib community has been closed since 2015. Jordan chose to close the border since rebels took the Syrian side. In the summer of 2018, the Assad regime resumed Nasib, but despite all the offensive in different areas during the year, the regime controls only the booklet of Syria’s transitions to other countries (see September 30). Two months after its opening in Nasib, in December, UN organizations are launching a huge effort to bring emergency aid across the border to 650,000 people in Syria.
New law tightens the state’s religious control
President Bashar al-Assad signs a new law that gives the state stronger control over Muslim communities. For the muftin, the highest authority, a three-year term is introduced. The Ministry of Religious Affairs is given oversight over, among other things, religious schools and religious offerings in the media. Assembly leaders must have permission to attend, for example, conferences. Syria has a Sunni Muslim majority while the president belongs to the Alawites, who are closer to Shiite Islam. During the civil war, opposition to the government largely consisted of radical Sunni groups.
The UN is patrolling at the Golan Heights again
A border crossing between Israel and Syria is about to be opened after UN observer force Undof was able to resume patrolling at the Golan Heights. Undof was placed in the area in 1974 to monitor a standstill line between Syria and Israel, occupying the Golan Heights. The observers withdrew in 2014 when al-Qaeda- affiliated rebels, opponents of the Assad regime, took control near the separation line. During the 2018 offensive, the Assad regime has taken the area back from the rebels. The border crossing has previously been used mainly by druses living in Israel.
Over 11,000 civilian casualties in major powers’ air strikes
Since Russia launched its air strikes in Syria just three years ago, 18,000 people have been killed, SOHR claims. Almost half of the victims were civilians, the rest fighting in various rebel or jihadist groups. Just over 5,200 battles for IS. At 19 schools, 20 health facilities and a dozen markets, the rescue organization White helmets say they have assisted civilians after Russian air strikes. US air strikes targeting IS have been going on for a year, since 2014. At least 3,300 civilians have died, according to SOHR.
Russian plan accidentally shot down
Syrian air defense accidentally shoots down a Russian military aircraft with 15 people on board en route to the aviation base Russia has in Syria. Israeli fighter jets are simultaneously attacking Syrian targets, and Russia claims afterwards that Israel used the Russian plane as a “shield”. After the event, Russia strengthens the protection of its planes. Syria’s air defense is being strengthened with new robots, and disruption of satellite navigation, on-board radar and communications should be directed at military aircraft that attack targets in Syria. As a result, Syrians will more easily recognize Russian planes – but also Israeli ones, which they aim to shoot down.
Buffer zone should reduce civilian suffering in Idlib
An agreement between the presidents of Turkey and Russia raises hopes that civilian suffering in Idlib province will be limited: The Syrian government will not conduct any major offensive against Idlib (see August 1 and September 4). Erdoğan and Putin have agreed to establish a demilitarized zone, up to a few miles wide, between rebel areas and areas controlled by the Assad regime (which Russia supports). Turkish and Russian troops will be monitoring the zone, which will operate from 15 October.
The government holds local elections
In government-controlled areas, a process is called local elections, despite the fact that almost only candidates from the Baath government party are on the ballot papers. Opening hours in the polling stations are extended by several hours, according to state media because interest from voters is great. The last such election was made at the end of 2011, when the civil war had raged for nine months. In 2016, parliamentary elections were held and in 2014 Bashar al-Assad was re-elected as president.
Almost 365,000 dead during the civil war
The opposition group SOHR writes up the total death toll since the civil war started in March 2011 to 364 792 people. The number of civilians corresponds to almost one-third of the deaths: 111,000, of which more than 20,000 children.
Turkish operation in Assad Mount
The Turkish security service MIT has been operating inside Syria and has arrested a terror suspected man in the city of Latakia, controlled by the Assad regime during the entire civil war. The man is charged with a 2013 bombing in the city of Reyhanl ı on the Turkish side of the border that claimed over 50 lives. Turkey has singled out the Syrian regime for the act. The Syrian government denies the allegations.
Internal refugees are increasing in the northeast
Five children from one family are reported killed after Russian attacks on rebel groups in Idlib, where the Syrian regime and its allies are expected to launch a major offensive soon (see August 1). Since rebels with relatives – tens of thousands of people – have been forced from their enclaves in other parts of the country to rebel-controlled Idlib, many places are overpopulated. A chaotic situation is feared by an offensive. There is no other opposition controlled area left where people can flee from Idlib.
Israel confirms attack on Syria
Israeli armed forces have carried out more than 200 attacks against targets in Syria over the course of a year and a half, an Israeli military source confirmed to AFP news agency. Most of the targets, according to the source, are related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is involved in the Syrian war on the part of the Assad regime. About 800 robots and bombs have been used.
New defense agreement Syria-Iran
The Assad government in Damascus and the Iranian government has signed an agreement on continued military cooperation. The agreement is made public in connection with Iran’s Defense Minister Amar Hatami visiting Syria. According to news to several news media, this means, among other things, that Iranian staff, who are titled advisers, will continue to serve in Syria. To the Beirut Canal al-Mayadin, Hatami also says that the agreement includes rebuilding Syria’s defense industry. The reaction from Israel – which avoids becoming a direct party to the war but launches air strikes against suspected weapons production and supplies in Syria – becomes sharp a few days later: Neither threats nor agreements will deter Israel from preventing Iran from supplying Syria with military forces and weapons technology, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Messages are believed to come from the IS leader
The Islamic State announces a sound recording in which someone who is said to be the leader of the terrorist group urges their followers to continue fighting. Expertise considers it to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The speaker mentions current events, including a pastor who keeps Turkey imprisoned. Several times since IS was driven away from cities and important strongholds in Syria and Iraq it has been alleged that the leader was killed, but it has not been possible to occupy it. UN reporters claim that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 IS fighters in the Syrian-Iraq border (see July 25).
Allies fill the United States Syria account
Saudi Arabia pledges $ 100 million to US for stabilization efforts in Syria. The money will be used in areas exempt from the Islamic State (IS), the US Department of Foreign Affairs writes. Altogether, according to Reuters, the US gets around 300 million from allied countries, including the United Arab Emirates and EU countries such as Germany, France and Denmark. Subsequently, the United States announces that $ 230 million allocated for operations in Syria is now being diverted to other, unspecified projects.
Many casualties in the rebel brackets
More than 50 civilians, among them nearly 30 children, die in bombings against rebel forces in northwestern Syria, according to data from the SOHR. Most of the victims must have been claimed in the rebel-held city of Urum al-Kubra in the Aleppo province, others in Idlib. According to SOHR, it is unclear whether the fighting in Aleppo was carried out by the government forces, while attacks in Idlib are attributed to the regime’s Russian allies. The following day, 39 civilians and three rebels are killed in explosions in the rebel-held city of Sarmada in Idlib.
Municipal elections for reconstruction
Local elections are planned in government-controlled areas for the first time since the civil war broke out in 2011. Nearly 35 | 000 candidates have registered for the elections on September 18, says the head of the election authority to the regime-loyal newspaper al-Watan. 18,478 seats will be added in municipal councils, which with new rules will be given more responsibility for the reconstruction of the country that will be needed. In several disputed provinces no candidates have been registered. People in areas completely outside the government’s control should, according to the state’s news agency Sana, be able to register as candidates at special offices in Hama.
War damage for breathtaking amounts
Over seven years of civil war have caused property damage valued at more than US $ 388 billion by experts. About 50 experts have been gathered in Lebanon to calculate the costs of the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Africa (Escwa). The sum they came up with does not include any human losses, nor any loss of competence that has been the result of large population movements.
Chief of state arms lab killed
The head of a state-owned research facility linked to weapons production has lost his life in an explosion aimed at his car, which also killed his driver. General Aziz Asbar led an operation in Masyaf in the Hamas province, which Israel has conducted air strikes against twice in the course of a year, according to SOHR. Allegations that the regime manufactured the nerve poison sarin at the plant have been denied by the Syrian government.
HRW: Kurdish forces recruit young people
Kurdish YPG forces are recruiting child soldiers in camps where internally displaced people have gathered, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims. The data is based on conversations with families in three camps in northeastern Syria. According to HRW, it is not a matter of forced recruitment, but circumstances that put families under trial. Representatives of the regional Kurdish-Arab alliance promise that the claims will be investigated. International law prohibits armed organizations from recruiting young people under the age of 18, and cases where children under the age of 15 are armed are counted as war crimes.
Syrians have been treated in Israel
A field hospital in northern Israel where sick and injured people from Syria have received medical care has been closed, the Israeli army announces. Since the field hospital was opened in 2017, about 6,800 Syrians have been treated during one-day visits across the border. The business has been funded by a US aid organization, Friend Ships. In addition to the field hospital’s patients, 3,500 Syrian civilians have been treated at health care facilities in Israel since 2013. In addition, 1,300 Syrian children have been treated at specialist clinics one day.
Rebels in Idlib are teaming up
A handful of rebel groups in the province of Idlib announce, facing the threat of an offensive from Syrian government forces, that they should cooperate and call themselves the National Liberation Front. Jihadist Alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, who had links to the terror network al-Qaeda and is believed to be the dominant armed group in Idlib, is out of the co-operation. Of the four “stepping zones” proclaimed in 2017 following negotiations involving Russia, Iran and Turkey, Idlib is the last with the rebel attachment of importance. As the other three zones are occupied by the government, rebels with relatives have been bused to Idlib.
The last Assad resistance in the south is broken
The Assad regime now has almost total control in the south, even in connection with the Golan Heights occupied by Israel. IS has taken more than 30 Druze women and children hostage from al-Suwayda the week before and uses them as bargaining chips, reports several media. When the resistance is broken in the south, the regime is estimated to have control over 60 percent of Syria’s territory. The Kurdish Arab Alliance SDF holds a quarter in the north / northeast, while a flora of rebel groups hold Idlib in the northwest. In addition, Turkey still has troops in Syria. Whether Bashar al-Assad should now be able to target the next offensive against Idlib is determined by how his Russian and Iranian allies are positioned to participate.
Dozens of dead in IS deeds
According to state media, IS has conducted several coordinated suicide bombings and other attacks in and around the city of al-Suwayda in the southwest. About 220 people have been killed, both civilians and government soldiers and a smaller number of jihadists, according to SOHR. The attacks are the most extensive from IS in Syria in several months (see August 23 and October 28, 2018).
Syrian fighter jet shot down by Israel
An Syrian attack aircraft has been shot down after arriving in Israeli airspace over southern Golan Heights for about two kilometers, the Israeli military said. However, a Syrian military source claims that the plane took part in bombings of IS soldiers and was in Syrian territory. According to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the planet violated a demilitarization agreement between the 1974 countries.
Israel evacuates rescue workers
More than 400 people, rescue workers belonging to the Syrian organization White Helmets and their relatives, are evacuated by Israel. Syrians are exported via the Golan Heights to Jordan at the request of several European countries and the United States. The white helmets have assisted the needy in rebel-controlled areas in Syria, but are now threatened by the government’s advance in the south. Rescuers have the opportunity to move to the UK, Germany and Canada who have offered to receive them.
Siege of rebels evacuated
About 6,900 people are evacuated from Shia communities al-Fu’a and Kafriya in Idlib province and taken to regime-controlled territory in the Aleppo region, against the government’s release of 1,500 civilians and rebels from state prisons. The regime-friendly villages have been surrounded for three years by jihadists in Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Sunni Muslim opponents of the Damascus government. The villages are believed to have been the last two besieged in Syria; Elsewhere in the country, it is mainly the government side that has used siege.
Kurds leave Manbij
The last Kurdish guerrillas leave Manbij in the north as part of an agreement to avoid a confrontation between Turkish troops and US-backed forces. Turkey, after taking on the Afrin enclave last winter, threatened to move on to Manbij, held by SDF, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces. In 2016, the Kurdish YPG led an offensive to throw the terrorist group IS out of the city.
Symbolic flag is hoisted in Daraa
The government army raises Syria’s flag in southern Daraa. The plot has symbolic value because Daraa was the cradle of the uprising during the Arab Spring of 2011. At the same time, the US-backed alliance in the Northeast is held responsible for an air strike against the village of al-Susa east of the Euphrates River. The village near the border with Iraq is in an area where IS is still in control. 54 deaths, including at least 28 civilians, are reported by the BBC.
OPCW: Traces of chlorine gas in Duma
The Organization for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (OPCW) announces its conclusions of field work in Duma, where inspectors in the spring collected environmental samples and conducted interviews. OPCW has not found any traces of nerve poison sarin in Duma, however, there are signs that chlorine gas has been used. Opponents of the Assad regime have claimed that government forces exposed civilians in Duma to chlorine gas.
Boundary opens after rebel losses
Rebels in the remaining rebel strongholds in the province of Daraa settle with the government forces to surrender their heavier weapons (see June 23). Those who refuse are forced to leave the province with their families and head north towards Idlib. The rebels abandon the Nasib border crossing to Jordan after three years, the Assad regime also regains an important trade route. The regime now controls half of Syria’s border crossings to neighboring countries, including all of them at the Lebanese border. All ports on the Mediterranean are held by the regime.
Nuclear weapons mandate is extended
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is given expanded powers: in the future, OPCW will not only analyze the suspected use of chemical weapons but also identify the forces that made use of the poisons. A British proposal is adopted by 84 votes to 24 when the organization’s member countries are gathered for a special session. Russia, which regularly protests when accusations are made against the Assad regime, describes OPCW as “a sinking Titanic”. Behind the British proposal are not only nuclear weapons attacks in Syria and Iraq, but also the attacks with nerve poisoning against a Russian former spy on British soil and against a North Korea in Malaysia.
The regime on the offensive south
Russian forces allied with the Assad regime bombing rebel-controlled areas in the south. Following an agreement on demolition concluded in 2017, they have refrained from bombing the South, including the province of Daraa. But now the government is aiming to take back the south, where the revolt against the regime began in 2011. When the offensive has been going on for almost two weeks, SOHR reports more than 130 dead civilians and about 150 combatants, while the UN states that 270,000 people are on the run. The US is said to have made it clear to opposition groups that they cannot expect US support. Jordanian and Israel are sending humanitarian aid to refugees seeking border areas, but neighboring countries are not opening their borders to refugees.
The UN is investigating the siege of Eastern Ghuta
Forces that have fought for the government may have been guilty of crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghuta outside Damascus. The siege lasted for five years and according to the UN is the longest in modern times. A UN commission investigating the situation says the government’s allies refused to provide food and medicine to residents who had to choose between giving up or starving to death. Also rebel groups such as Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are criticized for human rights violations, including through torture and indiscriminate shooting of Damascus.
Israel is accused of attacking militia base in the east
17th of June
At least 52 members of an Iraqi militia group, al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization), are killed in an attack on the group’s base in eastern Syria near the Iraq border. al-Hashd al-Shaabi, who fought against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq, consists mainly of Shi’ite Muslims trained by Iran. The group has come into conflict with US-backed Kurdish-dominated forces that control parts of eastern Syria. Its presence is also not seen with the gentle eyes of Israel who promised to prevent Iran and its allies from establishing themselves in Syria. Both al-Hashd al-Shaabi and the Syrian government are accusing the United States of the attack. US government officials deny that the United States was involved and indicate that the attack was carried out by Israeli aircraft. Israel declines to comment on the information.
Unknown attacks with poison gas called
The Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization (OPCW) concludes that the poison sarin and chlorine gas were used in attacks against the al-Lataminah community in the northwest in March 2017. That was before the notable attack on Khan Shaykhun in April of that year, where it was believed that sarin was used for the first time in the Syrian civil war. The conclusion is based on environmental tests, testimonies and epidemiological analysis. According to OPCW, the message was delayed because there was a lot of material to review.
Record number of flights inland
The UN states that the number of internal refugees has reached a new record level. During the first four months of the year, 920,000 Syrians fled their homes, which is the highest figure so far during the war. Accordingly, the total number of internal refugees amounts to 6.2 million, according to UN data.
Fewer civilian casualties in the war
In May, 244 civilians lost their lives in war events, says SOHR. It makes the month the least deadly for civilians since the civil war broke out in 2011. The Assad regime’s forces and attacks carried out by its Russian allies caused nearly 100 of the casualties, while nearly 40 died in air strikes carried out by the US-led alliance. The situation on the fronts has calmed down since the government side emptied areas around Damascus into combat.
Syria recognizes Russian-backed republics
The Syrian government recognizes the Russian-backed outbreak republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Georgia, from which the separatists broke away, is in protest over diplomatic relations with the government of Damascus.
Damascus completely withdrawn by the army
The government army states that it now has full control over the capital Damascus and its surroundings – a milestone after over seven years of civil war. The last IS forces have been driven out of the Yarmuk refugee camp and adjacent al-Hajar al-Aswad and left the areas with relatives: 1,600 people in 32 buses, according to SOHR.
The care badly exposed during the war
The war has escalated in a shocking way in 2018, according to the UN. More hospitals and health care facilities have been injured by combat operations during the first months of the year than during the whole of 2017. Panos Moumtzis, the UN envoy on humanitarian issues, reports that 79 health care facilities met from New Year to May 4, with 89 deaths as a result – staff and patients. Almost half of this year’s attacks on health care took place in Ghuta outside Damascus.
OPCW: Chlorine gas in attack on Saraqib
Chlorine gas is likely to be used in an attack on Saraqib – rebel-controlled area east of Idlib – on February 4, the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization (OPCW) has concluded. In accordance with its mandate, OPCW makes no statement on the debt issue. The Assad regime claims never to have used nuclear weapons, but broadcasts from OPCW and the UN, which have now completed a joint field work, say according to the BBC that they are convinced that the government side has used the nerve poison sarin and chlorine gas on at least four occasions.
Stepped up position between Iran and Israel
After 20 rockets were fired from Syria against army posts on the Golan Heights, which Israel occupies, Israel attacks 70 targets in Syria with fighter aircraft and robots. The targets are military infrastructure that Iran has built to assist the Assad regime. Israel’s war effort is the most extensive in several years and the largest so far directed at Iran. Israel confirms the raids and explains that the purpose is to prevent Iran from establishing itself militarily in Syria so that it may threaten Israel. Assessors believe that neither Iran nor Israel wants the conflict to escalate further.
Rebel retreat in Hama and Homs
Rebels with civilian relatives leave pockets of the land they controlled in the provinces of Hama and Homs. In 60 buses, they travel north, either towards Islamist-controlled Idlib or towards the rebel area Jarabulus in the Aleppo province. This is after a ceasefire between rebel representatives and the Assad regime, which thus takes back yet another funnel, now in central Syria.
New ground team raises frame screams
Human rights activists criticize a new law, known as ” Decree 10″. The law gives the state the right to take over privately owned land and use it for urban building. Landowners – in many cases people fleeing as a result of the civil war – can receive compensation in the form of shares in the construction projects, but their permit is not obtained. It can also be difficult to prove their ownership due to a lack of property register. The law means that a local provision for Damascus from 2012, “Decree 66”, is extended to apply throughout the country. International organizations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch protest.
Graves are opened for nuclear weapons inspectors
In the work to clarify whether combat gases were used in Duma on April 7, experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) plan to open graves to take samples on the remains of the dead. Inspector General Manager Ahmet Üzümcü tells the Financial Times that OPCW has so far been able to take hundreds of environmental tests during its two weeks on site.
Southern Damascus is cleared of rebels
The Assad regime’s cleansing of rebel groups has reached southern Damascus. Rebels in at least four mounts have agreed to move to areas in northwestern Syria that are rebel-controlled. On May 10, when the evacuations were carried out, the SOHR states that the Damascus area has been emptied of rebels for the first time since 2011, such as an IS pocket in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the al-Hajar al-Aswad community.
Donor countries are holding back
At a major international donor meeting in Brussels, a total of $ 4.4 billion is pledged to Syria’s civilian 2018. According to the UN, more than double the need is needed for emergency efforts for Syrians who remain in their home country and refugees who have traveled to neighboring countries. Just over six million are now estimated to be in flight within the country and five million abroad. The number of people in need of assistance is estimated at 13 million in total, including people who have not left their homes.
New step in offensive against rebel areas
The government side “grazes” rebel-held areas systematically. Rebels have now begun to leave several communities in eastern Qalamun about six miles northeast of Damascus. There, as before in the Eastern Ghuta, there are now agreements between rebels and the Russian-backed Assad regime. About 3,200 people – rebels with relatives – will be bused to the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib. 5,000 people have left the nearby town of Dumayr on similar terms.
Samples collected in Duma
After a week of waiting in Damascus, OPCW inspectors were allowed to visit Duma to investigate allegations that the government army had used nuclear weapons there. Fears that the regime has wiped out traces of banned weapons have been dismissed from the Russian side with the need to clear mines in order for the experts to be admitted. Syrian authorities, on the other hand, have arranged visits for the media, as health care professionals have pointed out that breathing problems interpreted as gas poisoning may have been caused by smoke, debris and dust – destruction caused by conventional weapons. On July 6, the inspectors announce their conclusions: they have found traces of chlorine gas in the area (see March 20 and April 10).
Sold sarine component to Syria
Three companies are threatened by legal action for delivering isopropanol to Syria, the Belgian Ministry of Finance reports. The substance can be used for detergents and solvents, but also for the poison gas sarin. Exports violate Syrian sanctions and the content had not been declared customs by the authorities.
Western countries are attacking designated nuclear weapons targets
The United States, Britain and France attack the Assad regime with cruise missiles and fighter aircraft. The attacks are directed at a research facility and a weapons depot on the outskirts of Damascus and a warehouse west of Homs, places that, according to the three western countries, can be linked to nuclear weapons. Russia, which uses an air base and a naval base in Syria, has been warned, stating that there are no Russian personnel or equipment near the targets. According to US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, the efforts of the three attacking countries are twice as great as those carried out against the Shayrat base a year earlier after reports of the use of poison gas sarin in Khan Shaykhun.
UN inquiry stopped by veto
The UN Security Council cannot agree to investigate whether nuclear weapons have been used in the Eastern Ghuta. Russia stops a US proposal by veto; this is the twelfth time Moscow is using the veto to block UN action against Syria. The Assad regime denies allegations of chlorine gas. Since the beginning of 2014, when investigators were attacked on their way to Kafr Zayta in the Hama Province, the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization (OPCW) has not been able to investigate chemical weapons charges outside Damascus.
The last Ghuta enclave gives up
The rebel group Jaysh al-Islam has finally agreed that 8,000 rebels with 40,000 relatives will leave Duma and be driven to Jarabulus in the north – according to AFP about as many as had previously been released from other enclaves in Eastern Ghuta (see March 23 and March 31)). Those who refuse should stay. Russian military police, not Syrian government forces, will maintain the order. Five years of siege of the rebel strongholds east of Damascus are over, but the government’s offensive against them, which began on February 18, has claimed about 1,600 civilian lives in total. On April 14, Syria’s army declares that all regime-hostile forces have left the Eastern Ghuta.
Mass movement of rebels
Nearly 45,500 people, rebels with families, were evacuated during the Easter week from enclaves held by Islamist group Faylaq al-Rahman, according to state news agency Sana. The government has taken back 95 percent of Eastern Ghuta. Throughout March, as evacuation from various rebel pockets in the area has taken place, according to government media, a total of 143,000 people have left the area – the majority of civilians who have escaped as the rebels’ hold on the enclaves release.
Trump announces US retreat
The US’s 2,000 soldiers are to be taken home from Syria “… so, pretty soon,” Donald Trump says to industrial workers in Ohio without setting a deadline. The main purpose of the effort has been to fight IS and it is almost clear, Trump explains, and understands that Gulf states like Saudi Arabia should stand for continued efforts. According to the Washington Post, Trump is also slowing financial support for Syria’s stabilization funds, money intended to prevent IS from rebuilding power. Several of the president’s advisers fear that Iran and Russia will strengthen their influence if the US terminates its support for the Kurdish-Caribbean alliance that is counterbalancing the Assad regime.
Evacuation from enclaves takes off
Rebels with families leave Harasta in 30 buses in the direction of Idlib. Harasta in Eastern Ghuta has been controlled by the Ahrar al-Sham group. At the same time, another group, Faylaq al-Rahman, has announced a ceasefire in the southern part of Eastern Ghuta and the day after, buses start rolling from there as well. Among those displaced are Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, supporters of al-Qaeda who have fought alongside Faylaq al-Rahman against the Syrian regime. A third rebel enclave in Ghuta, the city of Duma, is controlled by the Jaysh al-Islam group. There, too, negotiations are underway and the movement of rebels takes place a few weeks later (see March 18 and April 8).
Israel declares fear in Syria 2007
Israel, for the first time, released data on a flight fad against Syria in September 2007. The target in a desert area in Dayr al-Zawr (Deir Ezzor) was, according to Israel, a nuclear reactor under construction, which has never been confirmed by the Assad regime. A few years after the attack, the UN Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated that there was likely to be a nuclear plant and that North Korea was part of the project. In 1981, Israel carried out a similar scare against Iraq. Both are now cited as examples of events in the immediate area that Israel will intervene in the future.
High death rates in and outside Damascus
One of the deadliest rebel attacks in a long time against the capital Damascus requires 44 lives when a grenade strikes on a commercial street, state news agency Sana said. At the same time, many civilians are reported to have died in attacks by the regime. In Arbin, a city in Eastern Ghuta, 15 children and two women who sought protection in a school’s basement have been killed during a bomb attack, reports SOHR.
Hard to call accusations of nuclear weapons
The Chemical Prohibition Organization (OPCW) has great difficulty in getting the opportunity to investigate suspected use of nuclear weapons. The OPCW investigators have so far been able to examine 70 cases since 2014, out of a total of 370 where allegations exist that some form of poison was used as a fighting gas, says chief Ahmet Üzümcü.
More on the EU sanctions list
The EU is imposing sanctions on four people identified as responsible for civilian exposure to chemical weapons by the Assad regime. In total, sanctions in the form of travel bans and frozen assets have been imposed on 261 people on the regime side during the seven years of the war, the AFP writes.
Crucial days in Afrin and Eastern Ghuta
Frequent refugee flows are moving from both Afrin in the north and from the Eastern Ghuta east of Damascus. Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies have pushed the Kurdish YPG militia into retreat and taken over the city of Afrin. 1,500 Kurds have fallen and 250,000 civilians have left, according to SOHR, and looting of shops and homes is reported. In Eastern Ghuta, three different rebel pianos have been isolated by advancing government forces and negotiations are underway; the rebels may either set off against Idlib or stop and act as a militia to the government. At the same time, tens of thousands of refugees a day are seeking refuge in a government-controlled area. President Bashar al-Assad publishes photos from a visit to government soldiers, but it is not clear exactly where.
The regime is accused of abuse by UN investigators
UN investigators accuse the government army and allied militias of systematically using rapes and other sexual violence against civilians. The government has not granted the investigators entry permits, instead they have conducted over 450 interviews with, among other things, victims of violence, witnesses and medical personnel. Abuses committed by the Islamic State (IS) have been separately documented by the Commission.
Seven years of war, half the people fleeing
The Civil War is entering its eighth year. The British- based SOHR, with a network of reporters in Syria, has updated its estimates of how many people have lost their lives: 353,395 people since March 15, 2011. More than half the population, 20 million before the war, are on the run in the country or in other countries. In the north, Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish region has been ongoing since January. To the east of Damascus is Assad’s government army advancing against rebel groups. There, 1,220 civilian casualties are reported in total during the offensive against the Eastern Ghuta, which was already besieged.
Rebels are isolated, brought to Idlib
the 12th of March
The government’s offensive against the Eastern Ghuta is about to isolate three shrinking areas controlled by rebel groups. According to the SOHR, the rebels are negotiating with the government. There are – besides hundreds of thousands of civilians – fighters from various armed groups, including Jaish al-Islam and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The rebel groups have so far said no to evacuation, but now a busload of jihadists with relatives are reported on their way to the province of Idlib in the northwest, where there are HTS mounts.
Kurds are losing city at the border
Turkish forces and their allied Syrian rebels occupy the city of Jandairis held by Kurdish forces. The city, which is on the border with Turkey and in the disputed enclave of Afrin, has been attacked by Turkish fighter aircraft and the devastation is reported to be great. On March 16, the biggest hospital in Afrin is hit by bombing. Turkish Red Crescent confirms the incident but indicates no death toll. SOHR reports that 16 civilians are killed, including two pregnant women.
Russian plane crash at base
A Russian transport aircraft crashes on landing on an airbase in northwestern Syria, near the Mediterranean. All 39 people on board are killed, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Preliminary technical error is suspected.
Intensive battles on two fronts
4th of March
In the Afrin enclave in the north, at least 36 fighters are killed in Turkish air strikes, according to SOHR people who fought on the Kurds’ side against the Turkish offensive. Turkey, too, is making losses: eight days earlier eight soldiers have fallen in a single day. Within the framework of “Operation Olive Branch”, Turkey has also brought special forces to the area, probably a preparation for close quarters in the urban environment. East of Damascus, where the Assad regime advances its positions in the Eastern Ghuta, SOHR reports 34 new civilian casualties in one day, among them eleven children. The regime is said to have occupied a quarter of the area that has been rebel-controlled.
Difficult to reach with the help of civilians
40 trucks with supplies intended for areas in besieged Eastern Ghuta have been loaded for days, but cannot be driven in because the fighting continues and the Assad regime does not give a go, says UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. Neither has the sick and injured been evacuated despite the Security Council’s resolution of a 30-day cease-fire. Damascus and Moscow accuse rebels in the enclave of holding civilians hostage. In Afrin in the north, for the first time since Turkey’s offensive began in January, 29 trucks with emergency aid have arrived.
UN leak: North Korea assists Assad regime
North Korea has helped Syria by selling equipment that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons, claims UN experts reviewing sanctions against North Korea are complied with. About 40 deliveries were made between 2012 and 2017 via bulking companies, writes the British BBC, whose employees have read the report. There are also reports that North Korean weapons expertise has been seen at Syrian facilities.
Five-hour stop in the regime’s attack
Russia and the Assad regime make a unilateral decision, with no regard for the recently adopted UN resolution on a one-month ceasefire (see February 24). They begin, with the start of the day after, five hours daily stop for the attacks against the rebel forces, especially in the Eastern Ghuta. The cease-fire should allow civilians to leave, they argue.
Syrian Kurdish leader arrested
Salih Muslim, former chairman of the Syrian Kurdish Party PYD, is arrested on Turkish demand at a hotel in Prague. Turkey, who accuses him of terrorism, says he will be requested extradition, and reacts with dissatisfaction when released after a few days. PYD is the political branch of the YPG militia.
The UN calls for a month-long ceasefire
The UN Security Council agrees on a resolution calling for a one-month ceasefire in besieged places so that residents can receive food and medical care. But attacks against the Eastern Ghuta rebel outside Damascus continue. Over 500 civilians, among them 130 children, according to SOHR killed during last week’s bombardment. Russia, which previously halted eleven UN resolutions against Syria by veto, is being pressured by other countries to persuade the Assad regime to respect the ceasefire. The day after the UN decision, the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports a hospital in Eastern Ghuta, reports that the clinic is receiving patients with symptoms of chlorine gas damage.
Slow for Turkish offensive in Afrin
After a month’s offensive against Afrin in Syria, the President of Turkey is quite alone in describing “Operation Olive Branch” as a success. 32 Turkish soldiers have been killed, Turkey’s relations with other NATO countries are tense and interest groups in Turkey are protesting. According to the SOHR, the Turks have taken 25 villages. Nearly a hundred civilians have been killed, as have a few hundred Kurdish militiamen and about as many Syrians fighting on Turkey’s side.
Ground forces gather at Eastern Ghuta
The UN calls for an immediate halt to the bombing of the Eastern Ghuta rebel, where, according to SOHR, “at least 100” dead civilians are counted on a single day. It is the last stronghold of the opposition in the Damascus region. Both the SOHR and the al-Watan newspaper report that negotiations are underway for an evacuation of jihadists from Eastern Ghuta, but the bomb attacks are interpreted as the regime forces preparing for a ground offensive.
Russians dead in air strikes
Russia confirms for the first time non-military losses in Syria, personnel not serving in state forces. It appears that Russian citizens lost their lives when the US-led alliance attacked a gas field on the eastern side of the Euphrates River a week earlier. 15 Russians, employees of the Russian security company Wagner, have died, according to news sources, when a weapons stockpile was blown up. Russian Foreign Ministry states the number of casualties to “probably five”. Other sources give higher numbers, but it may be that several events demanded Russian life. The Assad regime is believed to employ mercenaries to secure oil and gas facilities east of the Euphrates, in the province of Dayr al-Zawr, where Kurdish-Arab SDF government opponents are also receiving US alliance support to hold their positions.
Confrontation between Israel and Iran
An Israeli fighter plane crashes after launching an attack on “Iranian targets”. Israel states that the crew destroyed an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace and fired from Syria, but crashed in the homeland, where the pilots also shot. Iran denies the details of the drone. Israel attacks the day after a number of positions in Syria. According to news media, this is the first time Israel has allowed such extensive efforts since the Syrian war broke out in 2011. Prime Minister Netanyahu says Iran will not be allowed to establish itself militarily in Syria.
Intense attacks against the siege
After four days of air strikes against besieged Eastern Ghuta, the number of casualties for the government side’s offensive is up to almost 230, according to SOHR. An on-site doctor tells AFP news agency that the bombings are the worst in the area since the war broke out in 2011.
Known IS cell broken
Kurdish militias have arrested two Britons in their 30s who are suspected to be IS warriors, reports The New York Times. They have joined a group of four Londoners called “The Beatles” and made themselves known for great ruthlessness. According to US sources, the IS cell has beheaded at least 27 people from Western countries taken hostage. Nobody in the terror cell is now on the loose: The leader, known as Jihadi John, was killed in a raid against the city of al-Raqqa in 2015, the fourth arrested in Turkey the same year.
The UN appeals for a ceasefire
6th of February
Following new raids on the Eastern Ghuta outside Damascus, SOHR counts up to 80 civilian casualties; the bloodiest day since an attempt to achieve a local ceasefire went down six weeks earlier and the government side stepped up its attacks. Paulo Pinheiro, who heads a UN commission that has been investigating the human rights situation in Syria since 2011, appeals for a month-long ceasefire and emphasizes that the attacks do not fit with the 2017 agreement that would give the Eastern Ghuta a security zone for the protection of civilians. The UN Commission, which last autumn blamed the Assad government for the sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun, is now seeing claims that chlorine gas is being used.
Frequent attacks against Eastern Ghuta
Nearly 30 civilians die in a dozen aerial and artillery attacks against rebel-controlled Eastern Ghuta, SOHR reports. Eastern Ghuta is one of the areas where the war effort is to be stepped down according to an agreement concluded with Russia, Iran and Turkey last year. The United States claims that there have been six suspected chlorine gas attacks in a month against rebel areas, including the Eastern Ghuta. The major powers still disagree on how the UN should review reports on nuclear weapons.
Turkey strengthens in Idlib
Turkish military sets up its fourth post in Idlib province, where jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has strongholds. It happens a few days after the jihadists shot down a Russian fighter aircraft in revenge for Russian bombings in Idlib. Turkish army enters in accordance with last year’s Syria call in Astana. There, Turkey agreed with Russia and Iran to set up zones to bring down the war in Idlib, the city of Homs, Daraa in the south and Greater Damascus.
Flight from Idlib and Hama
The clashes between government forces and rebels in the Idlib and Hama provinces have driven more than 270,000 people since December, reports UN Secretary-General Ursula Müller to the UN Security Council. Since the end of 2017, government forces, with Russian support, have been conducting offensive against regime opponents in both provinces.
Assad opponents are missing in Sochi
30th of January
In Russia, Sochi launches a Syria conference, but important players have refused to participate. The largest opposition umbrella organization SNC is absent, as are representatives of the area in northern Syria where the Kurds have set up a form of self-government. The Kurds refuse no in view of the offensive carried out by Turkey against the Kurdish enclave Afrin. SNC believes that the Assad regime and its main backers are not open to real negotiations but want to confirm Bashar al-Assad’s assertion of power. UN mediator Staffan de Mistura is in place despite, or because of, fears that Russia, Iran and Turkey, through their Syria initiatives, are undermining UN peacekeeping efforts.
Kurdish appeal to Assad unanswered
30th of January
In Afrin, ten days of Turkish offensive have killed at least 55 civilians and 78 Kurdish fighters, according to SOHR reports, and the Syrian rebels supporting Turkey are believed to have lost about as many men as Kurds. At the same time, Turkey admits that seven soldiers have fallen. The fighting has not yet reached the city of Afrin itself, but the Kurdish rulers in the region have been forced to demand that the border with Turkey and the airspace be protected by the Assad regime, the same government from which the Kurds themselves seek independence. The Assad regime has been content to condemn Turkey’s “brutal aggression”.
Unwilling parties at UN meeting
Negotiating meeting under the auspices of the UN, a process that after eight failed rounds in Geneva has been moved to Vienna. Mediator Staffan de Mistura seeks to get the Assad regime and opposition representatives to discuss constitutional issues; questions about elections are considered even more difficult. Assad has, with Russian military help, taken back parts of the country and has moderate interest in settling as long as the forces move forward their positions, says Firas Modad at the risk analysis company IHS Markit. No breakthrough is reported from Geneva, nor is the Syrian conference planned by Russia in Sochi a few days later to bring all parties to the negotiating table.
Partnership against nuclear weapons
24 out of 29 countries gathered in Paris announce a “partnership against impunity “. They want to see sanctions against those responsible for the use of nuclear weapons and commit themselves to exchange information on suspects for attacks in Syria and elsewhere. Before the meeting, France has decided on sanctions against Syrian, French, Lebanese and Chinese companies that should have helped the Assad regime with banned weapons. The days before the meeting, a suspected chlorine gas attack was carried out against a rebel enclave east of Damascus.
Advancing towards Afrin
While the Turkish attacks on the Syrian side of the border are intensifying, the Afrin population is hoarding food and medicine. Turkish forces say they have captured 15 communities and lost a soldier. SOHR reports that 22 civilians were killed by Turkish fire and two by Kurdish. According to SOHR, 54 fighting Syrians should have been killed during the first three days of the offensive, among them 19 rebels sympathizing with Turkey and 26 Kurds. Nato countries express concern and call for restraint, but Turkey says Manbij will be the next target after taking control of Afrin.
Turkish offensive against YPG
Turkey launches an offensive from the Hatay province against the Kurdish militia YPG in Afrin, northern Syria. Artillery fire is followed by air strikes and after a few days by ground forces with armored vehicles. Turkey thus opens a new front in Syria, where the NATO nations Turkey and the US have different interests; The US supports the YPG’s efforts against IS jihadists. YPG controls part of the border even east of Afrin and Turkey’s prime minister says a goal is to establish a three-mile wide buffer zone at the border.
Open effort for the United States
The US has several goals with its military presence in Syria, declares Foreign Minister Rex Tillerson. It wants to prevent IS from resurrecting, but also be a counterbalance to the Assad regime and Iran’s influence until a new domestic Syrian regime can take shape. The United States, which now patrols eastern Syria with combat aircraft and has 2,000 men on the ground, has set no time limit for its efforts. According to Tillerson, this is a lesson from the failure in Iraq, where the United States took home its forces in 2011 just to launch a new troop effort in 2014.
Kurdish-Arab border force is established
The US-led alliance supporting Kurdish-Arab forces in northern Syria announces that 230 soldiers are being trained to become border guards. The goal is to establish within a few years a regional force of 30,000 men to guard the border area against Turkey. The Turkish government, which sees in particular Kurdish organizations involved as terrorists, airs heavy criticism and threatens to attack the Kurdish-dominated cities of Afrin and Manbij. The regime in Syria responds by calling those who join “traitors”.
Homicide after the death of the author
Author Munir Darwish, 80, has passed away after being hit. He was one of the founders of a Cairo-based opposition group that is perceived as tolerated by the Assad government. Tongan opposition think Darwish was murdered, since his condition after the collision was not described as life-threatening.
Attack on the rebel’s claw
In an attack on the Eastern Ghuta rebel near Damascus, at least 24 people were killed, including four children, SOHR reports. It is happening at the same time that the new UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock makes his first visit to Syria to discuss civilian aid. The government’s siege of the enclave, which has been going on since 2013, has created severe hardships for some 400,000 inhabitants.
Several attacks against Idlib
7 th of January
Altogether, some 40 people are killed in an explosion and in flight attacks against the opposition-controlled city of Idlib. Among the dead, according to SOHR, there are at least 21 civilians. The explosion occurs near an Islamist rebel stronghold. Even outside Idlib, targets are being attacked, including the city of Jarjanaz. On the same day, the government states that it has secured control of a military base outside Damascus.
New year, new raids
Attacks against rebel-controlled areas occur in Eastern Ghuta and Misraba outside Damascus, as well as in the province of Idlib in the northwest. About 30 civilian deaths are reported. The war has harmed more than 340,000 people’s lives and forced millions into flight since it broke out in 2011.