U.N. Special Envoy Calls for Renewed Push Towards Solution to Syria Crisis
The U.N.’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Syria is has been set back 40 years by war, as he made a renewed push towards a solution to the crisis.
“It is a true tragedy that people all over Syria continue to be living under constant fear of barrel bombs, mortar attacks, rockets, aerial bombing, car bombs, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings,” said de Mistura during a press conference Thursday in Geneva.
Syrians have replaced Afghans as the world’s largest population of refugees. 7.6 million people inside Syria are displaced and 3.3. million have sought refuge in neighboring countries, in addition to 12 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Diseases like polio, typhoid and measles have returned to Syria, and an estimated 3 million children are now out of school.
Mistura urged support for the proposal of a “freeze” to end fighting in Aleppo, “because [the city] is a symbolic microcosm of all of Syria, because it has the highest number of displaced people, because it has seen two years of suffering, because while the government and the opposition continue being involved in heavy fighting between them, [with ISIS] only 20 miles away from Aleppo.
“The United Nations will resume talks with the Syrian government next week in the hope of achieving a cease-fire around Aleppo,” the New York Times reports. Mistura said the U.N. talks with the government would “bear in mind” the Geneva communiqué of June 2012, but would also take into account “new factors which have come up in the reality of the area,” including the Islamic State.
Russia, a staunch ally of the Syrian government, is planning to host talks between the government and Syrian opposition members on January 26. Many opposition groups including the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition have declined the invitation to Moscow, saying the meetings have little chance of success.
Syrian Government and Opposition Forces Agree to 10-Day Homs Cease-fire
The Syrian government and opposition forces have agreed to a 10-day cease-fire in the last opposition-held area of the city of Homs.
Al-Waer has been under siege by government forces for nearly 20 months, with thousands of residents only occasionally receiving food and humanitarian aid. “We have been without any electricity, diesel or gas for heaters for too long now. Children are really cold, we live in extreme cold,” Abu Ahmed, a resident of al-Waer told Al Jazeera.
Some rebels see the cease-fire as a major setback for opposition fighters; they say they agreed to it only because they have been severely weakened in recent months.
An activist who spoke to the AP from al-Waer said “the rebels were outgunned, and that the experience of fighters once holed up Homs’ Old City was instructive: the area was destroyed, thousands of civilians were killed or forced to flee, and ultimately rebels negotiated their surrender in May 2014.”
Homs, Syria’s third largest city, is one of the first cities where protesters took to the streets n 2011, and was once a key stronghold for the Syrian opposition.
Hezbollah Leader Threatens Israel Over Syria Attacks
“Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened in an interview Thursday to retaliate against Israel for repeated strikes on Syria,” AFP reports.
Nasrallah, a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said that Israeli strikes on Syria effectively “target the whole of the resistance axis,” which includes Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Nasrallah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to help defend the regime. Syria, in turn, has long been a supporter and a logistical transit point connecting Hezbollah with its patron, Iran.
In December the Syrian military accused Israel of carrying out two airstrikes near the Damascus international airport and the town of Dimas, the BBC reports.
“They appear to have been mainly aimed at preventing weapons transfers to Syria’s allies in Lebanon, the militant Hezbollah movement,” wrote BBC News.
Israel has conducted several airstrikes on Syria since 2011, mostly destroying weaponry believed to be destined for Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon.
- BBC: Syria: Italian Aid Hostages Freed
- Reuters: Pentagon to Deploy 400 Troops to Train Syrian Rebels
- New York Times: U.N. to Renew Syria Talks, Seeking Aleppo Cease-fire
- Daily Star: Assad Lowers Expectations for Moscow Meeting on Syria
- BBC: Islamic State Beheads ‘Guerrilla’ in Eastern Syria