Damascus accused of gas attack as cover for airstrike
A three-month-old deal to avoid a nal battle in the last rebel-held province of Syria looks to be under increasing strain. Russia, which supports the regime, and Turkey, which backs the opposi- tion, have guaranteed the stay of execution for the northern region of Idlib that is crammed with rebel ghters. However in December 2018, the Assad regime launched airstrikes on rebel-held areas in the north of the country. The renewed attacks were the most serious violation of a truce reached by Russia and Turkey that brought relative calm to the country’s north. The attack was a response to claims that insurgents wounded more than 100 people in a suspected toxic gas attack in Aleppo. The rebels, who have denied carrying out any chemical attacks, accused the govern- ment of trying to undermine the cease re. the UK and US have now rejected Syria and Russia’s claim, with the US accusing forces loyal to the regime of ring tear gas into Aleppo.
Signs of economic upturn amid the carnage
The downward spiral in the Syrian economy has started to slow, according to analysis by IHS Markit, which forecasts anaemic growth in 2019. It shows that the economic crash did slow down during the period 2015-2016 with a 9.9% contraction and just 2.3% in 2017 thanks to expansion in the mining, manufacturing and utilities sector This follows a 53.7% contraction in between 2011 and 2014 that was mainly due to the 84% contraction recorded by the mining, manufacturing and utilities, and an 80% wholesale and retail trade contraction. Forecasts from Trading Economics see the economy contracting by 3% a quarter through 2018. The economy will be worth just SYP13.7trn in 2020 compared with SYP14.2trn at the start of 2018. Unless an end to the con ict is found within the near future, the cumulative loss in the economy will reach 13.2 times the annual pre-con ict GDP in 2010, according to a World Bank analysis. Even if peace were established by the end of the current seventh year of con ict, the loss would still be 7.6 times GDP. In both cases the economy subsides to a new, lower equilibrium. So far from 2011 until the end of 2016, the cumula- tive losses in GDP have been estimated at $226bn, about four times the Syrian GDP in 2010. GDP is estimated to have contracted by 4% in 2016 after shrinking by an annual average of 15.7% for the period (2011-14) and 12% in 2015, the World Bank said. According to the IMF, the Syrian economy has contracted in real terms by 57% since 2010.