SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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Amran lives in Raqqa. He travels more than 30 miles twice a month to get his diabetes medication from a pharmacy in Ain Issa, north of the city of Raqqa. He also travels west to the city of Tabqa another 25 miles to get treatment for his family. Imran is forced to travel each time this far because there are no pharmacies in Raqqa offering these medications for free and he can’t afford to pay for them. He’s not alone; he is usually accompanied by neighbors on his trips needing to secure medication for chronic diseases and other illnesses.

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After US-missile strikes in Syria on April 13, 2018, that targeted manufacturing components for the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal, the initial outcome of the attack was unclear. The response of the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia was immediate condemning the attacks. A month later, and most analysts counter that the impact was limited, and a comprehensive US-Syria strategy is still missing. SyriaSource interviewed Nasr Hariri, head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee that represents the opposition, about Iranian influence in the region, the relationship with Russia, and the developing US-Syria policy. 

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Sixty-eight prisoners are crammed into an overcrowded communal cell somewhere in the Afrin valley. Where they sit depends on how many days they have been imprisoned. As prisoners spend more time in the cell, they gradually move further from the door. New detainees sit and sleep closest to the dormitory’s entrance, standing up as the door is opened by the jailer and sitting back down to sleep when the jailer closes the door. A dim LED bulb lights the cell, under which hangs an old portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK); who is part of an insurgent group active in Turkey since the early 1980s.

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On the night of April 29, air strikes targeting Syrian military positions in Hama and Aleppo reportedly hit two Iran-linked bases resulting in a giant explosion measuring 2.6 on the Richter scale. According to a former head of military intelligence, this indicates the target may have been a weapons depot that was highly explosive, stating “the level of explosion that even moved the needle of an earthquake detector is not from the munition that attacked these places, but from the target.”

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During a state visit to the United States, US policy in Syria was a key talking point for French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump. The meetings took place just ten days after the US, France, and the United Kingdom carried out joint missile strikes in Syria as a response to suspected chemical weapons attack on April 9 by the regime.

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The latest Israeli airstrike on the T4 airbase and the possibility of Russia providing Damascus with an S-300 missile system have strained relations between Moscow and Tel Aviv. But these developments are unlikely to break down this strategic partnership or spark further escalation.

Tensions are increasing between Russia and Israel over Syria, casting a shadow on a strategic partnership built on deconflicting the nation’s crowded and complex battlefield. However, experts say the countries’ relationship remains solid enough for now.

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As France’s President Emmanuel Macron begins a three-day state visit with US President Donald Trump, their discussions are likely to focus on differences of opinion relating to Syria and Iran’s involvement in the conflict.  

Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East experts weigh in on the upcoming meeting between Macron and Trump, their differing views on Syria, and the potential impact of the visit.

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Chechen, Dagestani, and other foreign fighters from Russia’s North Caucasus region (and Georgia’s Chechen-inhabited Pankisi Gorge) have formed some of the most formidable insurgent groupings in Syria’s conflict despite their small numbers. Over the past year, however, their activity has slowed to a crawl, and their actions and statements suggest many of these fighters may look to exit the conflict area soon.

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A new chapter began in Eastern Ghouta, part of Damascus governorate, on March 22. The government-imposed siege ended in certain towns and Syrian regime forces seized control of areas through a negotiated agreement between the Syrian regime and its Russian ally on one hand and opposition factions—the Rahman Corps and later Jaysh al-Islam—on the other. The terms of the agreement allowed the regime to begin forcibly displacing people from their homes.

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Two unsurprising reactions followed in the immediate wake of the recent air attacks on Syrian chemical warfare facilities: Western commentators praised the raids while lamenting the absence of a Trump administration “Syria strategy;” and Bashar al-Assad defiantly declared victory while resuming aerial assaults (albeit non-chemical) on rebel-held residential neighborhoods. One might employ a medical analogy to appreciate the depth of malpractice being displayed: as the patient is dying from arterial bleeding, the physicians debate the surgical alternatives.

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