No Quiet On The ISIS Front

Hanna Kozlowska provides an update on Syria, where as many as 700 people were killed last Thursday and Friday in fighting between ISIS and regime forces – the highest death toll in 48 hours since the start of the war in 2011:

The Shaar gas field in central Syria saw some of the heaviest fighting. It is a crucial gas supply facility for the country’s central region and among the largest in Syria. Islamic State fighters attacked the field Wednesday night — just hours after Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for a third, seven-year term as president —  and seized it Thursday, killing 270 government soldiers, guards, and staff. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, at least 40 militants from the group formerly known as ISIS were killed. Over the weekend the body count grew by 100. More than 170,000 people have died since began in March 2011. And the war created an unprecedented refugee crisis displacing 2.8 million people, including many women and children.

On Monday, Islamic State fighters clashed in Damascus with other anti-Assad rebels who initially embraced the group but now are trying to expel it from the city. They’ve successfully ousted the organization from sections of the capital and its outskirts but the Islamic State’s influence has recently expanded, encompassing an oil-rich area in the eastern Deir Az Zor province. The organization controls much of Syria’s east.

The conflict also continues to have a severe impact on its neighbors. Alice Su takes stock of the ever-heavier burden the Syrian refugee crisis is imposing on Jordan, which is also host to thousands of refugees from Iraq and other war-torn countries:

A year passes, then two, then three. Rents rise—up to 300 percent in some areas—along with gas, electricity, and water bills. The Jordanian economy, already destabilized by disrupted trade and transit routes across the region, wobbles. GDP growth declines. Foreign direct investment shrivels. Budget deficits and public debt grow.

Jordan’s government has drafted a National Resilience Plan to mitigate this kind of damage for its citizens, 14 percent of whom live below the national poverty line. But the plan, along with all the humanitarian work in the country, depends on international funding, which is dwindling. To date, UNHCR has received 33 percent of its 2014 regional appeal for the Syrian crisis, leaving a gap of nearly $2.5 billion.

Jordan is not meant to be a host country indefinitely. Refugees are supposed to stop here for relief until they reach a “durable solution”—meaning returning home or resettling somewhere with permanent residence. So far, 22 countrieshave pledged to receive almost 35,000 Syrians, with UNHCR calling for a further 100,000 pledged spots by 2016. But there are more than 2.6 million Syrian refugees total, and only some of the pledges— just 121 resettled in America and 24 in the U.K., for example—have been fulfilled. The remaining refugees are stuck here, lives frozen, told to wait for a resolution that may not come.