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Executive Summary for February 17th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the formation of a U.N. unit to collect evidence for war crime prosecutions, clashes intensifying in Daraa and civilians falling victim to air raids on Idlib province.

Published on Feb. 17, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

U.N. Unit Will Collect Evidence for War Crime Prosecutions

A new United Nations unit in Geneva is being established to prepare for war crime prosecutions in Syria, Reuters reported.

The unit will “analyse information, organize and prepare files on the worst abuses that amount to international crimes,” a U.N. official said.

It will mainly investigate “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and identify those responsible,” but it will not be able to prosecute. The prepared files, however, could be used in prosecutions by states or the International Criminal Court.

ِA U.N. commission of inquiry established in 2011 has issued 20 reports accusing the Syrian government, rebels and the so-called Islamic State of mass killings, rapes, disappearances and recruitment of child soldiers.

Clashes Escalate in Daraa

Fighting continues to intensify in the southern province of Daraa, Al Jazeera reported. Russian airstrikes are said to have targeted rebel-held areas in the province in the past two days. They followed an opposition response to a government attempt to secure a border crossing with neighboring Jordan. Rebels fired mortar shells on government-held neighborhoods.

If the government strategy is successful, it will cleave rebel-held districts in Daraa in two, separating their eastern and western positions in the province.

Opposition forces in Daraa include those fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army as well as Islamist members of the Tahrir al-Sham alliance.

These are the most intense clashes in Daraa since an unsuccessful rebel attempt to retake the entire city in 2015. Previous efforts by the government to capture the border crossing with Jordan have failed.

Civilian Victims in Air Raids on Idlib Countryside

Intense air raids on the rebel-held Idlib countryside killed at least five people on Thursday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

A woman and her child were killed in the attacks on al-Hbit, a town in the southern Idlib countryside. The death toll is expected to rise as there were many casualties.

An array of rebel factions operates in Idlib, including the powerful jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria. JFS is excluded from a Dec. 30 nationwide truce brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

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