By Stephen Kalin and Maher Chmaytelli
The red areas are Kurdish lands.
...Dozens of IS insurgents were killed (click here) on Saturday and others tried to escape by swimming across Tigris, state TV said. Most of those making a last stand were foreigners, it added.
Iraqi commanders say the militants were fighting for every meter with snipers, grenades and suicide bombers, forcing security forces to fight house-to-house in the densely populated maze of narrow alleyways.
"The battle has reached the phase of chasing the insurgents in remaining blocks," the Iraqi military media office said in a statement. "Some members of Daesh have surrendered," it added, using an Arab acronym of Islamic State.
The road where the soldiers celebrated was scarred with gaping holes from explosions and rubble from a flattened multi-storey shopping mall.
Rubbish and ammunition boxes were strewn around and the only civilians seen were a group of about 15 women, children and elderly, some of them wounded, sheltering in a damaged petrol station. Security forces medics were giving them first aid.
Months of urban warfare has displaced 900,000 people, about half the city's pre-war population, and killed thousands, according to aid organizations...
July 3, 2017
Beirut - Russia (click here) the United States and Jordan have agreed to back a ceasefire in southwestern Syria and the truce will take effect on Sunday, Jordan's state news agency Petra said on Friday.
It cited government spokesman Mohammad Momani as saying that based on "arrangements reached in Amman, a ceasefire will take place along a line of contract agreed upon between Syrian government forces and associated troops on one side and rebels on the other."
A US official said earlier that the US, Russia and regional countries have reached a ceasefire deal in southwestern Syria....
July 7, 2017
Astana's (click here) newest building is the Norman Foster designed Khan Shatyr, a shopping mall that doubles as the world's largest tent.
Amman — Jordan on Thursday (click here) said it has a “key interest” in the restoration of stability and security in Syria, downplaying accusations by the Syrian opposition of attempts to obstruct opposition groups’ participation in the 5th international meeting on Syria in Astana.
“Jordan is taking part in the Astana meetings as an observer, upon an invitation from Russia. Jordan is directly impacted by the situation in Syria and has a key interest in restoring security and stability in Syria,” Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Momani told The Jordan Times on Thursday.
The fifth international meeting on Syria took place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on July 4 and 5....
This is the problem. While it is convenient to recognize The Free Syrian Army and it's promise to a united front that will serve as a governing body once there is a ceasefire, the Assad regime does not recognize the difference between any rebels, Daesh or otherwise.
June 20, 2017
Amman: Syrian Arab Army forces (click here) came within three kilometers of a border crossing with Jordan on Tuesday following a secretive midnight operation behind rebel frontlines, local military sources told Syria Direct.
The regime deployed a small “infiltration team” around 2:30am Tuesday morning into rebel territory, 3km west of Daraa city, a local opposition commander told Syria Direct. The pro-government units reached and briefly captured an opposition-controlled air defense base within hours.
The nighttime operation not only benefited from the cover of darkness but also from a synchronized air and ground assault across multiple rebel positions in the deeply contested, and divided, provincial capital.
Russian and regime aircraft pinned down rebel fighters for hours inside Daraa city, launching dozens of airstrikes, barrel bombs and incendiary weapons while the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies attempted to storm the opposition-held half of the city on the ground....
Assad has made his advances with the assistance of Russia. Can Russia definitely state there is an end to hostilities in the southwest Syria?
Jordan has been burdened with a great many refugees and it is important there be land for them to return to, but, Russia has to guarantee the land at the Jordan border will not see anymore violence against what are going to be unarmed refugees returning to their homeland.
May 31, 2016
...As of May 31, 2016 (click here) UNHCR had registered a total 4,838,620 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and North Africa since the conflict began....
...The majority are hosted by Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq....
...Their situation is characterised by tightly controlled land borders, strict visa requirements to enter Lebanon, limited admissions at the Jordanian border and visa requirements for entry to Turkey by sea or air....
This is when the problems began in Europe through Greece.
...On March 8, 2016 the Balkan route became closed to refugees and other mixed migrants following official border closures in Macedonia (FYROM), Croatia, and Slovenia.
By the end of April 2016, these closures effectively left close to 54,000 refugees and mixed migrants, including thousands of Syrians, stranded in Greece....
Russia must guarantee there will be no violence against these returning refugees. Russia has not been able to guarantee Assad's aggression before, namely when he bombed hospitals and a UN warehouse.
The USA should be doing everything it can to strengthen the resolve in Jordan. The kingdom has done all it can without completely causing problems to its own citizens. The Jordanians have been magnificent in accepting refugees into their very homes. There is on doubt the citizens of Jordan are exceptional, but, there is a limit to generosity. I think Jordan should be expecting every effort to end the violence against these people. These refugees must be allowed to return without problems from Assad.
There is a good chance whatever remains of Daesh in the area will try to disrupt their lives and press able bodied men and boys into service, but, I would expect the Free Syrian Army to control that. If the Free Syrian Army is still in the sites of Assad, I don't know how anyone can expect this to be a resolve so much as a disaster. Assad will wait just long enough and resolve the refugee crisis his own way.
From the beginning, Assad has seen rebels as rebels, be they FSA or Daesh. I doubt he has changed his view or will.
If this effort fails what is Europe facing, again?
...Alternative Destinations: For a growing number of Syrians, leaving the Middle East does not mean travelling to Europe. A recent series of IRIN reports highlight ‘Syrians in unexpected places’ like Mauritania, Sudan, Brazil, and Mali. These countries either offer humanitarian visas or no visa requirements at all. Additionally, some Syrians are using Brazil, Mali, and Mauritania as alternative routes to Europe.
Trafficking: Refugees Deeply (click here) has published an article detailing the trafficking risks faced by Syrian women en route to Europe. The piece details the connection between trafficking rings and organized gangs that help smuggle people into European countries.
Additionally, the sex trafficking of Syrian women is an ongoing and growing concern in Lebanon as highlighted by the dismantling of the country’s largest known sex trafficking ring in March 2016 (see Lebanon section).
Refugees in Europe have had incredibly wonderful experiences. These refugees are good decent people seeking safety, but, not all the stories in Europe end this way. There is Paris.
May 17, 2017
“My heart is about to break,” (click here) said Falak, as she walked to the exit of the plane with her children in tow on an morning in early February.
The 38-year-old Syrian mother and her five children had flown from Athens to Dusseldorf, after spending nearly two years separated from her husband and their father Mohammed. He had since been granted refugee status in Germany and the family had been accepted for family reunification.
“Baba! Baba!” the oldest boy, also named Mohammed, shouted when he saw his father in the airport. He began to run and the rest of the family quickly followed.
Everyone’s eyes welled with tears. As they held each other tightly in long-awaited embraces, Falak wondered aloud, “Is it a dream or is it actually happening?”...