Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
26 November 2014
J.D. Conor Mauro

Children play in a field as Turkish Armed Forces dispatch tanks to the Turkish-Syrian border. (photo: Getty Images)

Swing sets and death in Syria: A visit to an Aleppo playground (Der Spiegel) Majid, what are you doing? “I’m watering mommy.” Majid drags a large, blue bucket — so full that he can hardly carry it — across the withered grass. But why are you watering your mother? The 13-year-old looks puzzled, as though it were the kind of idiotic question that only outsiders might ask. “Because she’s right here,” he says and pours the water onto a mound surrounded by a few stones meant to mark the site as a grave. An old pine tree offers a bit of shade, but so far, nothing seems to have taken root at the place where Majid’s mother is buried. “I have to water it. Then something will grow for sure,” he says with a steady voice as he heads back to refill his bucket. Majid’s mother died in the summer, but nobody in the family had enough money for a proper gravestone or even a border for the site. She died “because of her heart,” Majid says, “in her mid-30’s.” He can’t be more precise than that; nobody in Aleppo really asks anymore why someone is dead. Majid drags a third bucket-full to the grave, as though seeking to atone for something he played no part in, as if he could score a tiny victory against all the dying…

Syria conflict: Raqqa air strikes death toll rises (BBC) Almost 100 people are now believed to have died in a series of government air strikes against the Islamic State in Raqqa on Tuesday, activists say. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 52 civilians were killed. One activist from Raqqa told the BBC the only hospital still functioning in the city was finding it difficult to cope with the dozens of wounded. Syrian government and U.S.-led coalition aircraft frequently bomb Raqqa, which the Islamic State took full control of in January…

Pope says he would ‘never close the door’ on talks with Islamic State (CNS) Meeting reporters on 25 November on his return flight from Strasbourg after addressing the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, Pope Francis said terrorism is a threat the world must take seriously. Specifically asked if he thought there was even the most remote possibility of dialoguing with terrorists like those from the Islamic State, Pope Francis said, “I never count anything as lost. Never. Never close the door. It’s difficult, you could say almost impossible, but the door is always open…”

Islamic State imposes a reign of fear in Iraqi hospitals (Washington Post) After storming the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, the brutal Islamic State quickly solidified its control. Gunmen enforced its laws, and supportive imams preached at the mosques. But the jihadists were missing something — doctors. So last month, the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to physicians who had fled: Return to work, or we’ll seize your property and you can never come back. The Islamic State’s efforts to run Mosul’s health-care system provide a glimpse into its efforts to build a caliphate, or Islamic state, in Iraq and Syria. Despite their victories on the battlefield, the jihadists have struggled as everyday administrators in Mosul, with the city’s hospitals grappling with daily power outages and shortages of medicine. The Sunni fighters have also imposed measures that have alienated staff and compromised the lives of patients, doctors say…

Israel violates terms of Gaza cease-fire (Al Monitor) Israel closed its border crossings with Gaza on 24 November to prevent the export of vegetables from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and some Arab countries, in clear violation of the truce agreement signed between the Palestinian factions and Israel under the auspices of Egypt. One of the most important points of the truce was the opening of the crossings and providing guarantees to lift the siege on Gaza. Israel is also preventing Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza from accessing the agreed-upon area of six nautical miles in the truce agreement. It either shoots them or destroys their boats and arrests them out at sea…

Tags: Syria Pope Francis Children Israeli-Palestinian conflict Aleppo