Will the ceasefire work? This is the burning question on everyone’s mind as Eid al-Adha approaches this Friday. Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, has pushed for a cessation of hostilities during the holiday. However, the regime and the opposition both appear reluctant, though for different reasons.
While Brahimi states that the regime has agreed to a ceasefire ‘in principle’, Assad appears cagey; he has yet to issue an official statement confirming or denying government support of Brahimi’s proposal, though one is expected later today.
Members of the Free Syrian Army have pledged to support the ceasefire if the government does. They have relaxed their previous conditions for the ceasefire, including calling for a halt to the siege of Homs, perhaps recognizing that such requests are unlikely to be granted by the government. The Al-Nusrah Front, the Islamist opposition group, has opposed the ceasefire because they wish to have no compromise with the regime.
Meanwhile, Syrian civilians express doubt that shelling, to name but one form of governmental violence, will actually cease. Recent reports confirm continued fighting in Aleppo and Damascus.
Syrian refugees hit 100,000 in both Turkey (Oct. 15) and Lebanon (Oct. 23)
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, had stated in August that Turkey would not be able to accommodate more than 100,000 Syrian refugees; if numbers continued to rise, a buffer zone would have to be created between the two neighboring countries. However, while Turkish officials confirmed recently that 100,000 was the ‘limit,’ Prime Minister Erdogan said on October 15 that such high numbers were not unanticipated and that the Turkish government was trying to adapt to the situation.
Davutoglu also expressed concern about the risk posed to Turkish civilians living near the border. Turkey has made it clear that it will defend its interests militarily should its own citizens be injured in crossfire again, as they were in early October; signs of bubbling conflict between the two countries are another development to watch.
The numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passed the 100,000 mark just this Tuesday. The Lebanese government, wracked with recent violence in the country, does not appear to have made a statement regarding the rise, which was reported by the UN. UN spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated that the majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are not living in camps.
Jordan is the third country in the region to house more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, though the Jordanian government has claimed the actual number is over 200,000. A recent small-scale protest in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp indicated Syrians’ dissatisfaction with the treatment they have received while living in Jordan. Whether Lebanon or Jordan will rise to the challenge of providing competent humanitarian relief to these massive numbers of refugees remains to be seen.
Documentation of cluster bomb attacks by government against civilians
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently documented cluster bomb use on the part of the Syrian government. The government has denied any such use; however, HRW’s analysis tells a different story. You can read excerpts of their report here.
Jacqueline Outka is a recent Yale graduate interested in health and the Middle East. She is currently assisting with a report on Muslim mental health, working for an HIV clinic, volunteering for a refugee agency, studying Arabic, and doing freelance writing. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.