Syria

Since Dec. 1, some 900,000 people have been uprooted by violence in Syria, according to the United Nations. Now, new satellite images give a sense of scale to that crisis.

The conflict between the United States and Iran has flared dangerously in Iraq — and in few places more so than a remote desert air base, more than 100 miles northwest of Baghdad. Iran fired at least 10 ballistic missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Assad base last week in response to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary leader.

NPR international correspondent Jane Arraf and freelance photographer Alexander Tahaov were among a group of journalists invited to tour the base earlier this week.

In a bipartisan vote, Senate lawmakers on Tuesday approved a $738 billion Pentagon budget, which includes an authorization for punishing new sanctions on Syria, Iran and Russia for alleged war crimes in Syria.

The 86-6 vote in the GOP-dominated Senate followed a similar bipartisan vote in the Democratic-controlled House last week. President Trump was expected to quickly sign the measure.

Fernando Vergara / AP

The U.N. says the number of Venezuelans fleeing their country is on pace to surpass even the Syrian refugee crisis. But a new study finds the Venezuelan crisis is receiving far less international aid.

The Islamic State on Thursday confirmed the death of its founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and announced a successor. The propaganda arm of ISIS also confirmed the death of another top ISIS official, its former spokesman.

In an audio message released through its central media operation, the group's new spokesman announced that Baghdadi's successor is a man named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi. He is a figure largely unknown outside of ISIS circles and is hailed in the message as "emir of the believers" and "caliph" of the group's alleged caliphate.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie says the body of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was buried at sea after last weekend's commando raid in Syria in which he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and two young children in order to avoid capture.

McKenzie, speaking at a Pentagon briefing, said the two children are believed to have been under the age of twelve. In their initial reports, U.S. officials had said that there were three children.

Updated on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET

In Iraq and Syria, news of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death has stirred a mix of responses — from joy to disbelief to dread.

Since President Trump announced this weekend that Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, analysts have been grappling with the implications for the militant organization that has now lost its main chief in addition to all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria.

Before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, he was "screaming, crying and whimpering" as he was fleeing U.S. forces, winding up trapped in a dead-end tunnel in his Syrian compound, according to President Trump.

Baghdadi was being chased through the tunnel by a U.S. officer who is being celebrated as a crucial part of the top-secret mission that ended in the demise of one of the world's most wanted terrorist leaders.

That officer is a dog.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

President Trump says that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder and leader of the Islamic State, has been killed after a U.S. special operations mission targeted him in northwest Syria. Trump declared that U.S. forces have brought "the world's No. 1 terrorist leader to justice."

Describing a dangerous and daring nighttime raid, the president said after eight helicopters flew across Russian airspace, U.S forces located their target and blew a hole in a wall of Baghdadi's compound, fearing the main entrance was booby-trapped.

The leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed Tuesday after more than five hours of talks on how to jointly patrol parts of Syria that until recently were controlled by Kurdish forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey signed a 10-point memorandum at the Black Sea resort of Sochi that is set to go into effect at midday Wednesday local time.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Turkish-backed militias carrying out attacks in northern Syria came very close to American forces on the ground on Tuesday, putting them and their base "directly at risk," a U.S. official in Syria tells NPR.

The growing divide between President Trump and many of his fellow Republicans over his decision to move U.S. troops in Syria out of the way of a Turkish incursion threatens his delicate alliance with the congressional GOP at a time when he needs their support more than ever, party strategists say.

Some of Trump's closest allies, however, say the division may ultimately help him with an impeachment fight.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

As Turkish soldiers launched an assault on U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria and panicked civilians fled the battle zone, the White House sought to tamp down intense criticism over what many view as Washington's acquiescence in the incursion.

Turkey's forces crossed the border on Wednesday, carrying out airstrikes and artillery barrages against the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that has fought alongside the U.S. in efforts to dismantle the Islamic State in Syria.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET

The White House announced late Sunday that Turkey is ready to launch an offensive in northern Syria and that U.S. forces will stand aside, renewing fears that America is abandoning Kurdish allies who stood on the front line in the years-long fight against ISIS.

A two-paragraph statement released by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had spoken by telephone and that "Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in northern Syria."

Republicans have had no shortage of foreign policy disagreements with President Trump, whose presidential campaign ran diametrically opposed to many central tenets of traditional GOP stances on international affairs.

The GOP-controlled Senate voted again to go on the record with more pushback on foreign policy — this time on Syria.

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