A newly agreed ceasefire in Idlib, Syria's last opposition stronghold, could offer a welcomed respite for the province’s desperate civilian population. But if the agreement doesn't hold, its collapse could usher in the worst humanitarian chapter of the 8-year conflict.
Across the globe, the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution has risen to more than 70 million, almost double the number a decade ago, according to the latest annual report from the UN High Commission for Refugees.
Since the Syrian regime and its Russian ally stepped up their bombardment of Idlib province in February, more than 140,000 civilian men, women, and children have been forced to flee for their lives. It is difficult to overstate the urgency of this looming humanitarian disaster if nothing is done to protect these people who often have lost everything.
With support from Russia and Iran, the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, has regained control over most of the country’s territory. Yet, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. In the first eight months of 2018 alone, nearly 1.4 million people were displaced by violence. Now the warning lights are blinking red in Idlib and other areas outside of regime control. Many of the Syria’s 5.5 million refugees are under mounting pressure to return home before it is safe to do so.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi-led rebel movement agreed to a cease-fire in the port city of Hodeidah and its surrounding governorate on Thursday, following a week of UN–sponsored peace talks in Sweden. If it holds, this agreement would mark a major diplomatic breakthrough. Here’s why it matters and what to watch moving forward.
Syria is in the midst of one of the largest and fastest displacement crises since the start of the country’s bloody civil war eight years ago. As many as 330,000 Syrians have been displaced and are fleeing toward Jordan and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights to escape the Syrian government’s rapid advance. But despite the worsening crisis, international borders remain closed.
The United States and other donors have an important opportunity to consolidate stability in northeast Syria, which has been largely liberated from the Islamic State. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have begun to return home, but much work remains to be done with major population centers like Raqqa still riddled with explosive devices and basic services still to be restored. Actions by the Trump administration, however, threaten to unravel fragile progress on the ground.