The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria.
Turkish forces pushed deeper into northeastern Syria on Friday, the third day of Ankara’s cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that has set off another mass displacement of civilians and met with widespread criticism from the international community. The invasion came after President Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border and abandoning U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a cross-border ground operation that could transform an eight-year-old war. The assault began days after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the way, prompting denunciations from senior members of his own Republican Party who say he abandoned the Syrian Kurds, loyal allies of Washington.
The United States has concluded that the government of Bashar al-Assad used chlorine as a chemical weapon in May, marking the first confirmed violation of the ban on chemical weapons since Donald Trump authorized airstrikes in 2018 over Syria’s use of poison gas. The Trump administration has twice bombed Syria over Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018.
Insurgent groups have withdrawn from Khan Sheikhun in north-west Syria, clearing the way for pro-government forces to enter the town, in a milestone moment in the war for Idlib province, the country’s last major rebel stronghold. The development came hours after Turkey deployed tanks and armored cars deep into Syria, partly in response to days of advances by forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.
A New Zealand nurse kidnapped in Syria more than five years ago may still be alive, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has said, revealing her identity for the first time in an attempt to secure her release. Louisa Akavi, 62, and two Syrian colleagues have been held hostage for longer than anyone in the 156-year history of the international aid organization. The fall of Isis’s last stronghold in the region has potentially increased the risk of losing track of the New Zealander, but also raised hopes someone will come forward with information about all three.
The U.N.’s human rights chief said Tuesday she is concerned about the condition of some 200 families trapped in the last remaining area held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria, where they are mixed with hundreds of militants. Some 300 militants are mixed in with hundreds of civilians and are refusing to surrender while trying to negotiate an exit with the U.S.-backed forces surrounding them. Last week, the U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered badly needed humanitarian assistance as Russia offered to help relocate those willing to move to government-held areas in Syria.
Fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have launched an assault to oust ISIS from its last remaining enclave in Syria, the final remnant of the jihadist group’s so-called “caliphate.” After pausing more than a week to allow tens of thousands of civilians to flee the town, the SDF on Saturday renewed its push to wrest the last 4 square kilometers (1.5 square miles) from the militants. At least 500 ISIS fighters are believed to remain in the village, thought to be a concentration of ISIS’ most experienced and battle-hardened fighters and commanders.
A U.S. court has found the Syrian government liable in the 2012 death of American journalist Marie Colvin, ordering it to pay $300 million in punitive damages. Colvin was reporting from in the western Syrian city of Homs when the makeshift media center where she was working came under artillery attack. Colvin’s sister Cathleen and Cathleen’s three children filed the lawsuit in 2016. The Syrian government ignored the lawsuit. By failing to appear, it defaulted in the case.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed four Americans and at least 10 other people in the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday. Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014. The ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack in the northern city of Manbij was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest.