Since March 2011, nine million Syrians have fled their homes with over 6.5 million internally displaced. Almost three million have sought refuge in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon.
For more than two years 18,000 Palestinian refugees have been under siege in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, caught up in fighting between the Syrian government and the armed opposition, most recently Daesh/Islamic State. Fighting has intensified in the last few weeks.
The UN estimates that the residents are surviving on just 400 calories a day with conditions liable to get worse. There has been no running water since September 2014. Before the protests that aimed to topple Assad over 100,000 people were living in Yarmouk.
The Palestinian rebel group Bait al-Maqdis, linked to Hamas, have been forced into an alliance with the Syrian government in order to try to defeat both Daesh and the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Palestinian Authority has also pledged its support to the Assad Government in defence of the camp and against Daesh. Daesh were previously repelled from the camp but following a full scale incursion they have now virtually captured the camp, meaning Daesh have come very close to the Syrian capital.
Syrian government airstrikes have used highly destructive (and illegal under international convention) barrel bombs. 36 such bombs have been dropped in Yarmouk since the beginning of April.
The Syrian government is seeking to regain control throughout the country in areas besieged by rebels. Over 600,000 people are now thought to live under siege in Syria.
Airstrikes against Daesh have continued with fighters being targeted near the Kurdish controlled Rojava area as well as western Iraq where Daesh are planning a major assault in Anbar province to regain control of territory they lost to Iraqi government forces and Iranian backed Shia militias.
With Iran backing the Houthi rebels against Saudi backed forces in Yemen, sectarian conflict across the Middle East is intensifying. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are competing for dominance and greater economic and political influence. Iran has been the driving force in maintaining government-held areas in Syria. In Iraq where its troops and sponsored militias are often better equipped and trained then the Iraqi army.
Daesh have continued to destroy the 3000-year old ancient city of Nimrud near Mosul in northern Iraq as part of their “‘cultural cleansing with explosives and sledgehammers”‘. Daesh have vowed, “‘Whenever we are able in a piece of land to remove the signs of idolatry and spread monotheism, we will do it.”‘
Iraqi security forces have tried to repel Daesh from the western province of Anbar, one of the largest Sunni areas in the country. But whilst the offensive was being announced by the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Daesh was moving closer to Ramadi, the provincial capital.
Following the Iraqi government’s regaining of Tikrit earlier, the offensive in Anbar was meant to consolidate their control in areas previously controlled by Daesh.
However Daesh have concentrated on gaining control of the largest oil refinery in Baiji. They remain in control of Anbar and the northern province of Ninevah.