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Syria

The Syrian conflict since 2011 is a constellation of overlapping crises. Each of its global, regional and sub-national dimensions demands a tailored response set within an overarching framework. Instead, chronic violence and worsening suffering have killed more than 250,000 people, fueling radicalisation, refugee flight and a self-sustaining war economy. Outside stakeholders must learn from the way the Syrian conflict has repeatedly dashed unrealistic expectations on all sides. Crisis Group pursues a comprehensive approach for achieving a sustainable decline in violence and, ultimately, a political settlement. We also seek to correct dominant narratives that focus on jihadism and migrant flows, which are the symptoms, rather than the causes, of the problem.

CrisisWatch Syria

Unchanged Situation

Fighting continued in Idlib in north west between pro-govt forces and jihadist and other opposition groups with high civilian toll; suspected Islamic State (ISIS) and govt kept up arson campaign in opposition-held areas in east; and Israel continued airstrikes in west. In north west, pro-govt forces and Russia maintained shelling and airstrikes on opposition areas, but with Turkey stepping up support, opposition managed to hold off offensive and retake some territories. Turkish-backed rebels National Liberation Front (NLF) and jihadist coalition Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), along with other opposition factions, 6 June launched counteroffensive against pro-govt forces, pushing south toward Hama province. Russia and Turkey 12 June brokered ceasefire between govt and opposition forces in Idlib, but fighting continued. In Idlib province, pro-govt forces 13 June attacked Turkish observation post, injuring three soldiers; 27 June attacked Turkish observation post killing soldier. In Hama province, heavy clashes 17-20 June left around 135 rebel and pro-govt fighters dead. UN 18 June reported over 230 civilians killed since early May. In north east, U.S. 4 June said Kurdish-led rebels Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkey had agreed in principle that SDF core Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) would withdraw from future safe zone. In east, fires continued to destroy crops around Manbij city and in Deir al-Zour and Raqqa provinces: SDF 1 June accused ISIS and govt of using arson against it. ISIS 5 June claimed bombing in Raqqa; 17 June claimed suicide bomber’s failed attempt to attack Kurdish internal security HQ in Qamishli; 23 June ambushed pro-govt militias in Al-Mayadin desert. In south west, in response to artillery fire, Israeli warplanes 1-2 June killed ten pro-govt forces in Golan Heights; same day killed five govt soldiers in Tiyas air base near Homs, allegedly targeting Iranian facility. State media 12 June claimed govt forces had shot down Israeli missiles near Golan Heights; 30 June reported Israeli strikes in Damascus and Homs, allegedly killing four civilians.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

13 Jul 2019
Idlib’s armed opposition may not be able to win an open battle for the northwest, but they can make a Syrian military victory terribly costly, maybe intolerably so. AP

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups
21 Jun 2019
Damascus is still evidently intent on taking the whole of Idlib, and all Syrian territory nationwide. But it’s Russia that’s enabled this latest military push, seemingly with more limited aims. Japan Times

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups
23 May 2019
Idlib is a bargaining chip at this point and it’s extremely difficult to anticipate what happens next. The Guardian

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
15 Feb 2019
Too much of the public discussion around repatriating Western citizens, male or female, hinges on an assumption that letting them come home is equivalent to leniency or forgiveness. Bloomberg

Azadeh Moaveni

Senior Analyst, Gender
24 Jan 2019
Since February 2018, the Israeli-Iranian conflict visibly is no longer ‘cold'. Fanack

Ofer Zalzberg

Senior Analyst, Arab-Israeli Conflict
16 Jan 2019
President Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from Syria, but apparently spontaneously, without prior planning or coordination inside the U.S. government or with Turkey. Bloomberg

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups

Latest Updates

‘Jihadi bride’ doesn’t fit: we need a new language for female militants

Tabloid sensationalism about Shamima Begum flattens important debates about how much agency these women have.

Originally published in The Guardian

The West Should Let Islamic State Recruits Come Back Home

It’s easy to see why Britons are hostile to a teenage girl who went to Syria. But barring the door would feed the next round of jihadist recruiting.

Originally published in Bloomberg

Report / Europe & Central Asia

Mitigating Risks for Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa

Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, half of whom are under eighteen. Despite European aid, tensions are rising as the country strains to accommodate the influx. The answer is smarter integration policies aimed particularly at meeting the needs of vulnerable youth.

Also available in Türkçe
EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2018 – Third Update

Crisis Group’s third update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on economic reforms in Libya, preserving the fragile quiet in Syria’s Idlib province, addressing the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, supporting Colombia's uneasy peace process and averting violence in Nigeria's upcoming elections. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Investing Diplomatically in Syria's Idlib

The Sochi agreement between Russia and Turkey succeeded in averting a Syrian regime offensive in Idlib. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018 annual early-warning update for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to continue to provide diplomatic support for Turkey and engage directly with Russia to prevent an attack that would likely have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

Our People

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups
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Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
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