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CrisisWatch Syria

Deteriorated Situation

Pro-govt forces intensified bombing in Idlib province in north west. Syrian and Russian warplanes ramped up bombardment of Idlib province largely controlled by jihadist coalition Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS); UN confirmed over 160 people killed, while Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 313 civilians killed 30 April-31 May. Pro-govt forces 6-9 May seized strategic towns of Tal Othman, Kafr Nabudah and Qalaat al-Madiq; offensive seemingly aimed at recapturing strategic highways that cross Idlib. UN 17 May reported airstrikes on civilian targets throughout Idlib, damaging hospitals and schools; govt forces allegedly used chlorine gas 19 May. HTS retaliated: 2-19 May launched rocket attacks on Russian Hmeimim base near Latakia city; 21 May recaptured Kafr Nabudah before withdrawing again amid govt counter-offensive 26 May. Govt offensive on Idlib strained Russian-Turkish Dec de-escalation agreement: Turkish President Erdoğan in phone call with Russian President Putin 13 May accused Damascus of sabotaging deal; Russian and Turkish defence ministers 14 May met to discuss de-escalation measures; Russia 19 May announced unilateral ceasefire, but Russian airstrikes in Kafranbel same day killed ten. In east, amid ongoing Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency, Arab tribes continued protests – launched late April – against Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which took back territory from ISIS, citing poor service provision, forced conscriptions, arbitrary detentions, as well as SDF’s oil shipments to govt-controlled territories; protests petered out by end month. In south, pro-govt media 17-18 May reported govt forces had allegedly intercepted Israeli missiles from Golan Heights, targeting Iranian positions near capital; govt 27 May said Israel carried out attack in Quneitra in retaliation to anti-aircraft fire on Israeli warplane same day. 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
21 Dec 2018
[U.S. withdrawal from Syria] basically means you throw the Kurds under the bus. The only thing the Kurds can do is throw themselves into the arms of the regime. TIME

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
17 Sep 2018
A head-on attack against [Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] now or later would likely destabilize northwest [Syria], prompt a bloody and maybe inconclusive fight, and potentially set off retaliatory attacks inside Turkey. This is why the Turks are pushing so hard for something that approximates the status quo. Washington Post

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

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria