Executive Summary for March 13th

We review key events in Syria, including medical evacuations beginning in Eastern Ghouta, Turkey announcing its forces have encircled Afrin and the U.S. and Russia threatening military action in Syria.

Published on March 13, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Evacuations Begin From Eastern Ghouta

Medical evacuations of sick and wounded patients from Eastern Ghouta began on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

This is the first medical evacuation from the area since pro-government forces began their operation against the besieged opposition-held enclave last month. The evacuation is the result of a deal reached on Monday between Jaish al-Islam, one of the main rebel groups in the area, and Russia.

A spokesperson for the rebel group told Reuters that Tuesday’s evacuees were just the first batch. If the agreement remained intact, hundreds would “all be evacuated in batches for treatment, some in Damascus and some outside of Syria,” said Yasser Delwan, a political official with Jaish al-Islam.

Delwan added that Jaish al-Islam was only responsible for evacuations from the city of Douma.

Ankara-Backed Forces Encircle Afrin: Turkish Military

Turkish troops and their rebel allies encircled the Kurdish-held city of Afrin in northern Syria and seized other “areas of critical importance,” the Turkish military said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The Turkish Anadolu Agency reported that Turkey and its allied forces also set up “humanitarian corridors” for civilians to evacuate the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that an estimated 350,000 people live in Afrin and the surrounding areas. On Monday, the SOHR said that hundreds of residents had fled the area and many had arrived in Syrian-government-controlled territory ahead of the Turkish advance, according to Al Jazeera.

A Kurdish official speaking to Reuters on Tuesday accused Ankara of carrying out “demographic change” in areas Turkish-backed forces previously seized in the Afrin region. “The Turkish government is settling Turkmen and Arab families in the villages of Afrin that it occupied after forcing out its people,” Redur Xelil, the head of foreign relations in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), wrote in a message.

A senior Turkish official denied these accusations to Reuters.

U.S. and Russia Warn of Possible Military Action

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called for a new 30-day cease-fire in Syria at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday, warning it was “prepared to act” to put an end to the “chemical attacks and inhuman suffering.”

“The United States remains prepared to act if we must. It is not the path we prefer, but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take. And we are prepared to take it again,” Haley said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “When the international community consistently fails to act, there are times when states are compelled to take their own action.”

Haley said the Security Council’s previous cease-fire agreement, which came into effect last month, had “failed.”

Russian military would respond to any U.S. attack in Syria, RIA news agency reported, citing Valery Gerasimov, head of the General Staff.

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