(this week the new and influential Islamic Front refused to meet with US Ambassador Robert Ford). Spooked by the jihadi trend, Western countries are now less insistent on ousting President Bashar al Assad, according to a new Reuters report. With Al Qaida’s Syrian branch accused of torture and the more moderate Free Syrian Army struggling to unify its ranks (losing commanders along the way), the “re-engage Assad” impulse is gaining diplomatic sway.
That’s not to say allegations of regime abuse have stopped. By Sunday a week of intense air strikes on Aleppo left hundreds of people dead, as government war planes dropped crudely-formed artillery on rebel-held parts of the city. Human Rights Watch condemned the action as unlawful, hitting residential areas and killing dozens of civilians. The raids are part of a broader push by President Bashar Al Assad’s army; for the past month his forces have escalated an offensive to retake control of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which has been divided into regime and rebel territory since the summer of 2012. As ever larger chunks of the city are reduced to rubble, we profiled Aleppo’s “rag pickers,” making a living by scouring the city’s ruins.
Meanwhile the war takes its toll on the country at large. An independent research group estimates that 11,420 Syrian children have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Those who survive the fighting now face a bitter cold winter, with scant access to adequate food, heating, or basic electricity (see The Weather, A Measure of Life and Death). The BBC chronicled the everyday struggle to find bread, whose prices “have risen more than 500 percent in some areas,” according to the International Rescue Committee.
“Four out of five Syrians say their greatest worry is that food will run out. In many embattled cities and towns, shortage of fuel, flour and electricity means bakeries and bread can be almost impossible to find,” said the BBC’s Lyse Ducet.
The International Rescue Committee says starvation is threatening Syria’s population. The U.N. this week launched a record humanitarian appeal, asking for $6.5 billion in humanitarian aid, warning that substantially more of Syria’s population will be in need of humanitarian aid than not.
Two worthwhile features this week from around the web: the Washington Post published 18 refugee stories, while Foreign Policy Magazine looked at the Political Science of Syria’s War.