Children of Yazidi women raped by ISIS men banned from community

1. The offspring of Yazidi women captured, raped and impregnated by Islamic State fighters have been barred from joining the community in Iraq, the Media Line reported. Islamic State fighters murdered thousands of Yazidi men, forced young boys to join their ranks and abducted Yazidi women to use as sex slaves. Those children born to female captives have been the subject of fierce debate in the community, which recognizes children as Yazidis only if both parents are members of the sect.

2. Both prisoners Israel set to release, following the return of the body of Israeli soldier, ask not to be returned to Syria, Haaretz reported. One of the two, an accused drug smuggler, refuses to go back to Syria where he says authorities persecute him, while the other, a Fatah operative, requested to be placed in Hebron where he wishes to get married.

3. Astana process: Syria talks end without deal on key constitutional body. The Syrian government and armed opposition groups have failed to agree on the makeup of a constitutional committee during two-day talks in Kazakhstan that were led by Russia along with Iran and Turkey, Al Jazeera reported.


Islamic State 2.0: A global platform

Today's news roundup

1. The Islamic State relaunches as a global platform and the Sri Lanka bombings were a preview of its future, Charlie Winter and Aymenn al-Tamimi say in The Atlantic. In fact, Winter and al-Tamimi argue, the Islamic State has been ideologically strengthened by its failed proto-state, which the jihadi group claims was a way to build a global platform that would ensure the movement's future by mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters.

2. Syria's gas shortage has worsened. A Shout! News source in Damascus describes unprecedented scenes of cars and people waiting for petrol in lines spilling into the streets. The wait has been counted in days with drivers leaving their cars in the line at night to sleep and coming back to take their spot in the morning. This energy crisis is even worse than what the country experienced during the war, the source says.

3. Amnesty criticizes U.S.-led coalition's 'indiscriminate' actions in Raqqa, against the Islamic State, which killed about 1,400 more civilians than the U.S. military has acknowledged. Amnesty International produced names of more than 1,000 people reported killed from June to October 2017 in the northern Syrian city, NPR reported.

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Islamic State's violence drives Syrians toward Christianity

Today's news roundup

1. Christianity grows in Syrian town once besieged by Islamic State, Reuters reported, referring to Kobane, in northern Syria. The Evangelical movement is the beneficiary, not the traditional Eastern churches. Converts say the experience of war and the onslaught of the Islamic State claiming to fight for Islam pushed them to distance themselves from Islam.

2. Astana process moves forward: Kazakhstan will host new peace talks on Syria, backed by Iran, Russia and Turkey in effort to reach a political settlement for the conflict on April 25 and 26, The New Arab reported. The United Nations and Jordan are expected to attend as observers.

3. Gas shortage plagues Syria. U.S. sanctions are partly in blame, this thread on Twitter discussed. Yet, Reuters pointed to the halt in Iranian credit. Tehran is itself the target of U.S. sanctions reimposed since President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers.


Lebanon's Maronite Church deplores U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan

Roundup of top Syria conflict news - April 18, 2019

1. British taxpayers will pay for legal aid to Islamic State's bride Shamima Begum. The 19-year-old, who left east London in 2015, was stripped of her citizenship in February, after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp, the BBC reported. Ms Begum played an active role in the Islamic State's reign of terror as a member of the "hisba", which punishes those found flouting the group's laws on how to dress and behave, The Independent reported.

2. Associated Press published a map of the military campaign against the Islamic State from the group's greatest territorial gains in 2014. Gray shows areas occupied by the IS and allied groups.

3. Maronite bishops in Lebanon deplored the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan in a statement released at the end of the Bishops' monthly assembly, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation reported.


Suicide bomber targets U.S.-led patrol in Syria's northeast

Roundup of top Syria conflict news - April 10, 2019

1. A suicide bomber was killed after attempting to use a vehicle rigged with explosives to target a patrol convoy for the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Syria's northeast, near the town of Shaddadeh in Hasakeh province, The Associated Press reported. This came three months after the deadly attack against coalition and U.S. troops in Manbij claimed by the Islamic State.

2. The U.S.-Turkey showdown continued since last week's decision to stop F-35 fighter jet parts delivery to Turkey in retaliation for Ankara's decision to move ahead with the purchase of a Russian surface-to-air missile system. On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reaffirmed his country's purchase of a Russian-made missile defense system, The Associated Press reported.

3. There is still no clear international policy about how to deal with the Islamic State militants captured in Syria. Western countries with citizens among the fighters captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces have been reluctant to repatriate them. As of late, Austria said it wants its citizens who have fought for Islamic State to be tried in U.N.-style tribunals in the Middle East rather than brought home for prosecution, Reuters reported.


Iran recruited thousands of Afghan Shiites to fight in Syria

Syria's war news you missed - April 1, 2019

1. Security officials in Afghanistan worry that Iranian-backed Afghan veterans of the war in Syria will one day become a secret army for Tehran in Afghanistan. Returning home as Syria's war winds down, these fighters face suspicion and fear. Iran paid, trained and armed thousands of Afghan Shiites to fight in Syria to defend its ally, President Bashar al-Assad, The Associated Press reported.

2. The Pentagon will sustain budget for arming the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) amid United States pullout. The Defense Department is doubling down on its support for the SDF in eastern Syria, as the Trump administration's top envoy for Syria confirmed that the United States would continue to keep a residual troop presence in the war-torn country for the foreseeable future and the Department of Defense decided to sustain $300 million in U.S. backing for the SDF, Al Monitor reported.

3. Syria's Druze feelings mixed about Trump's recognition of the Golan Heights. Some Druze residents of the Golan Heights protested the United States recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territory, but others welcomed it, Al Monitor reported.


Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces call for international tribunal for Islamic State detainees

Syria's war news you missed - March 27, 2019

1. Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) call for international tribunal for Islamic State detainees. The SDF has detained some 1,000 foreign fighters, whose home countries are reluctant to take them back, BBC reported. Speaking to the BBC, one SDF official, Abdul Karim Omar, told the BBC they were struggling to cope with the thousands who emerged from the last Islamic State enclave of Baghuz, in the east of Syria.

2. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to testify before Congress today. Pompeo first appears before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations to discuss the Trump administration's FY 2020 budget request. Then the Secretary testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee where members will likely ask about the rationale behind the U.S. reportedly zeroing out stabilization assistance in eastern Syria.

3. Syrian Kurds demand autonomy before merger with Assad's army. Syrian Kurds will merge their forces into President Bashar al-Assad's military if he agrees to grant them some measure of political autonomy, an envoy in Moscow said, Bloomberg reported.


Using new maritime big data techniques, U.S. sanctions hit Iran's oil lifeline to Syria

Syria's war news you missed - March 25, 2019

1. Assad loyalists are turning on Syria's government as living standards deteriorate. Damascus' residents say life has become more difficult in recent months than at any point in the past eight years. Acute shortages of fuel, cooking gas and electricity have left citizens shivering in darkness through an unusually cold winter. The Syrian currency, which had plunged and then stabilized after the war broke out, is sliding again, sending prices soaring, The Washington Post reported.

2. U.S. sanctions hit Iran's oil lifeline to Syria, using maritime big data. Iran has been unable to deliver oil to Syria since January 2, according to maritime-data provider The use of new big data techniques led to Egypt turning back an Iranian tanker headed for Syria over U.S. Treasury warning, The Wall Street Journal reported.

3. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey will take the issue of the Golan Heights to the United Nations. On Friday, in a speech at a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Friday, Erdogan said the legitimization of the occupation of the Golan Heights cannot be allowed, Reuter reported.


Syria’s war news you missed - March 22, 2019

1. Iraq will open vital border crossing with Syria. The move would allow increased flow of goods along a route the U.S. worries would ease Iran's transport of weapons to its allies in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

2. The United States endorsed Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The U.S. is the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which the rest of the international community regards as disputed territory occupied by Israel whose status should be determined by negotiations between Israel and Syria, Associated Press reported (via Real Clear Politics).

3. Iran denies joint raid with Turkey against Kurd rebels, AFP reported. On Monday, Turkey announced joint bombing raids with Iran against Kurdish rebel group PKK in Iraq's northern mountains. Yet, state media in Tehran denies the claim.


Syria’s war news you missed - March 18, 2019

1. Afghans worry about the return of Shia fighters from Syria's civil war. Will they further undermine their country's stability, the Economist asked. The paper interviewed a 23-year-old man who fought with an Afghan militia recruited by Iran to help prop up the government in Syria's civil war. The young man came from the Hazara ethnic minority. Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims, as are the ruling elite in both Iran and Syria.

2. France brings back Islamic State jihadists' children from Syria camps, French newspaper Le Monde reported. France has repatriated five young children of jihadist fighters from northern Syria, whom it describes as vulnerable orphans. The French Foreign Ministry said that "as for adult French nationals - jihadist fighters with Daesh [Islamic State] - France's position remains unchanged: they must be tried on the territory where they committed their crimes - this is a matter of both justice and security".

3. Syria army vows to retake control of Kurdish areas, AFP reported (via Yahoo News). On Monday, Syrian Defence Minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub warned that the Syrian government will recapture territory controlled by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the same way it "liberated" other parts of Syria. Eight years into a war, Syrian government forces control almost two-thirds of the country.