- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
As the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza over the weekend, the bloodiest 48-hour period in Syria’s civil war went largely unnoticed. More than 700 Syrians were killed on Thursday and Friday, according to an NGO tracking the conflict, providing a stark reminder that a war that has raged for years shows no signs of winding down.
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 the conflict began in March 2011. And the war has created an unprecedented refugee crisis that has displaced 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 ez Zor province. The organization controls much of Syria’s east.
The Islamic State violently rekindled the Iraqi conflict in June, conquering the central part of the country and coming close to Baghdad. At the end of June, the group declared the formation of an Islamic state — a new caliphate — across the territories it controls in both countries.
The Sunni-dominated Islamic State is fighting Iraqi government forces as well as pro-government Shiite militias. In a report released Friday, the United Nations condemned all sides in the current upheaval, accusing them of violating human rights and committing war crimes. At least 1,531 civilians were killed in Iraq in June.
"ISIL and associated armed groups have carried out many of these attacks in a systematic manner heedless of the impact on civilians, or have systematically targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure with the intention of killing and wounding as many civilians as possible," the report states.
The U.N. accuses the Iraqi government forces of violations — including extrajudicial killings and executions — that "may amount to war crimes."
Yochi Dreazen is a Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security. His book about military suicide was published by Random House's Crown division in 2014.
Prior to joining Foreign Policy, Dreazen was a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the senior national security correspondent for National Journal. He began his career at the Wall Street Journal and spent 11 years at the newspaper, most recently as its military correspondent. He was born in Chicago, and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, he edited the award-winning daily campus newspaper and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with degrees in History and English. He was hired by the Wall Street Journal immediately after graduation. Dreazen arrived in Iraq in April 2003 with the Fourth Infantry Division, and spent the next two years living in Baghdad as the Wall Street Journal's main Iraq correspondent.
Dreazen has made more than 12 lengthy trips to Iraq and Afghanistan and has spent a total of nearly four years on the ground in the two countries, mostly doing front-line combat embeds. He has reported from more than 20 countries, including Pakistan, Russia, China, Israel, Japan, Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Dreazen received the Military Reporters & Editors association’s top award for domestic military reporting in a large publication for a series of articles about military suicide and the psychological traumas impacting veterans of the two long wars. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Tablet and the New Republic and he appears regularly on TV and radio programs such as NPR's Diane Rehm Show and PBS' Washington Week with Gwen Ifill. Dreazen gives frequent lectures about journalism, the wars and current events to both civilian and military audiences.
Dreazen lives in Washington with his wife, Annie Rosenzweig Dreazen, and their beloved Golden Retriever, Charlie.| The Complex |