In Syria, U.S. airstrikes and artillery fire last week reportedly killed scores of Russian mercenaries who had joined a failed assault on a base held by U.S. and Kurdish forces in Deir ez-Zor. Bloomberg reports that more than 200 soldiers-for-hire fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad were killed in the fighting, including many Russians. Meanwhile, some of the fiercest fighting in the 7-year-old conflict continues to rage in the northern city of Afrin, the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta and other parts of Syria. The United Nations special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned Wednesday that civilians have been killed on a “horrific scale,” with more than 1,000 killed in the first week of February alone.
Staffan de Mistura: “I’ve been now four years special envoy. This is as violent and worrying and dangerous a moment as any that I’ve seen in my time of tenure so far.”
On Wednesday, video circulated on social media showing an aid convoy arriving in the besieged rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. The nine trucks were the first to arrive in the area since late November of last year. They held food and supplies for an estimated 7,000 people in an area where 400,000 civilians remain trapped by fighting.