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CrisisWatch Syria

Unchanged Situation

Govt continued bombardment of Idlib in north west, Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up attacks in east, while negotiations on fate of north east after U.S. withdrawal remained stalled. In north west, govt continued bombing in southern Idlib province and rebels continued to retaliate against pro-govt forces. In Idlib province, govt shelling 3-4 April killed around 29 civilians; 18 April killed ten, including three children. Jihadist coalition Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham killed at least twelve pro-govt fighters near Aleppo city 21 April. Russia and Turkey 9 April announced start of joint patrols across demilitarised strip around de-escalation zone. Iran, Russia and Turkey held new round of talks in Nursultan, renamed capital of Kazakhstan (formerly Astana) 25-26 April, no significant outcome. In east, ISIS stepped up low-level insurgency: in Raqqa, twin bombing killed at least eight people 9 April; militants 18-19 April launched separate attacks in Homs and Deir al-Zour provinces, killing at least 35 pro-govt fighters; ISIS killed around 60 local SDF fighters in attacks throughout April. In north east, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) sought to strengthen control while U.S. retained presence on ground. U.S. remained vague on timing and extent of troop withdrawal. U.S. Special Envoy James Jeffrey visited region mid-April to advance negotiations between U.S. and Turkey on one hand and YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on other toward creation of safe zone along Turkish border in which local Arab and Kurdish forces would replace YPG. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 3 April warned of “devastating” results if Turkey took unilateral action against SDF. Facing fuel shortages, govt 15 April reduced petrol rations; PM Imad Khamis held U.S. and Egypt responsible for blocking passage of Iranian oil tankers through Suez Canal. Israel continued attacks on pro-govt infrastructure: Syrian state media 13 April reported airstrikes and damage to buildings in Hama governorate.

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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