Children make their way home from school through Aleppo’s devastated streets in November 2017. © UNHCR/Susan Schulman

The War in Syria Is Taking its Next Big Turn

Syrian regime forces, backed by Russia, have scaled up their attacks in what is the last part of Syria controlled by rebel forces.

Over the last several weeks an estimated 140,000 people have been displaced by escalating fighting in Idlib, Syria. This is the last remaining rebel held territory in Syria. As regime forces re-captured parts of Syria under rebel control, rebels and their families fled to Idlib, which the key players in the conflict agreed would be a “de-escalation zone.”

There are now 3 million people in Idlib. Most are displaced and the vast majority are civilian non-combatants. But there are also al Qaeda affiliated militants and other jihadis mixed in with the population.

The situation in extremely precarious right now as it seems that a deal between Turkey and Russia to prevent an assault on Idlib is breaking down.

My guest today, Dareen Khalifa is the senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. She explains this escalating crisis and what the situation in Idlib says about the broader trajectory and trends of the Syria conflict. This includes some key geo-political forces that are now very much driving events on the ground.

The escalating fighting in Idlib is a powerful reminder that the conflict in Syria continues to drag on even as international attention is fading.

If you have 20 minutes and want to understand how the conflict in Syria is evolving, have a listen.

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UPDATE:  Since this episode first aired in May 2019, the situation around Idlib, Syria has gotten considerably worse. In early 2020, the Syrian regime, backed by Russia has launched a new offensive against this last held rebel stronghold. The attacks are often indiscriminate. The humanitarian relief group Medicines Sans Frontiers has reported numerous attacks on civilians and hospitals. The situation for children is particularly rough, with reports of new borns freezing to death in refugee camps as they flee violence.  By now, nearly 1 million people have been displaced from this latest round of fighting, with encampments being set up along the border with Turkey.

For an updated podcast episode about the worsening situation in Syria, you can listen to this recently recorded Global Dispatches podcast episode.