Article Aug 15, 2016

Top 5 stories from the Syrian Civil War

Every Monday, we bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice. This week we are dedicating the entire post to stories from Syria.

1. Battle for Aleppo drags on as rebels break month-long siege of eastern Aleppo by Assad forces. Anti-government rebels from inside Aleppo reportedly linked up with rebels stationed outside the city, breaking the siege. However, fighting has intensified as Russian jets and Syrian government helicopters have pounded the city. International aid organizations have been sounding the alarm for weeks that the city’s 250,000 civilians are in grave danger.

2. Russian defense minister announces three-hour “humanitarian ceasefires” in Aleppo. The Russian official stated that “all military action, air and artillery strikes” would be halted for three-hour segments from approximately 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM to allow for humanitarian aid to enter the city. However, some observers are skeptical of the ceasefire, believing that Assad and Russian forces use the ceasefires to reequip, regroup and resupply troops.

3. United Nations investigates possible chlorine gas attack by Assad forces in Aleppo. The attack reportedly killed 4 and injured dozens more. The UN special envoy said that if the attack was indeed carried out by government forces, it would amount to a war crime. The use of chlorine in warfare is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

4. U.S. Holocaust Museum releases powerful new film on the situation in besieged Aleppo. The film represents a rare step for the US Holocaust Museum, which typically avoids policy issues. Warning: The film (embedded below) shows graphic content.

5. The family of 17-year-old British teenager, Kadiza Sultana, confirmed that she was killed in Syria by a Russian airstrike in May. Last year, Kadiza, along with two other teenage schoolmates from her London neighborhood, left the UK purportedly to become the brides of ISIS soldiers. More than 800 Britons are thought to have joined ISIS or other military groups in Syria or Iraq, though nearly 400 are thought to have returned.

Bonus Longread: The War on Doctors. ”Since March 2011, at least 738 Syrian doctors, nurses and medical aides have died in more than 360 attacks on medical facilities.” A new Foreign Policy dispatch provides harrowing details suggesting a deliberate attempt to target doctors and medical professionals in rebel-held areas in Syria. The last doctor in Zabadani died from a gunshot wound to the head—from a sniper. Also this week, 15 physicians from Aleppo appeal to the Obama Administration for help.

The story also includes the account of the death of Dr. Hasan al-Araj, the last cardiologist in rebel-held Hama:

It was April 13, just past noon, and Hasan al-Araj was behind schedule as he left an underground hospital for his next rounds. He was usually careful to check the skies above him in Hama, where he was the last surviving cardiologist in the province’s rebel-held territory, for the Russian and Syrian warplanes that regularly cruised overhead. But, in his haste, he did not use his walkie-talkie to confirm with colleagues that the skies were clear.

A missile exploded near his van as he drove away. In the wreckage, colleagues found body parts and pieces of his white medical coat.

“It was targeting,” said Ahmad al-Dbis, a pharmacist and medical aid worker who worked closely with Araj. “It’s known that that’s the location of a hospital, and it’s known that most of the people moving around there are medical staff.”

Have suggestions for a top five article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at twussow@erlc.com.