TSI Syria Updates: August 26, 2016

Daily Takeaway

The first evacuees left Darayya today after the Syrian government and opposition forces reached an evacuation agreement on Thursday. Civilians and fighters who surrender their weapons will go to Herjellah. Fighters unwilling to surrender will be transferred to Idlib. Women and children are to be separated from the men in the evacuation. Syrian Arab Red Crescent has already begun the evacuation with several buses to lead people out of the besieged town. According to the Darayya local council, the agreement includes UN envoys to guarantee protection of its residents which comes in sharp contrast to UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura’s media statement today stating the UN had not been consulted or involved in this deal. Details have since come out that the Syrian government had no wanted the UN involved but the Darayya residents refused to leave without UN envoys. The UN is expected to arrive on Saturday to mediate the transfer or Darayya residents.

Military

  • 26 August 2016: The first evacuees left Darayya today after the Syrian government and opposition forces reached an evacuation agreement on Thursday. A Syrian Army general said 300 families would leave on Friday and about a total of 700 fighters and 4,000 civilians would leave by Saturday. The general also said any fighter unwilling to make peace with the government would be transferred to Idlib. Darayya’s local council said civilians would initially go to Herjellah in Western Ghouta. UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura said in a media statement that the UN was not a part of the negotiations in Darayya, but that it was “imperative that people of Darayya are protected in any evacuation that takes place, and that this takes place voluntarily.”   (Reuters, BBC, Reuters, UNOG)
  • 26 August 2016: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) bombed a Turkish police headquarters in the town of Cizre in the southeast, along the Syria-Iraq border. The PKK claimed responsibility for the suicide truck bombing after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim finished speaking at a news conference, during which he said Turkish forces will remain in Syria until terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) Kurdish militias were pushed out of the border area. Yildirim also disputed suggestions made by Western media that Turkey was singling out Kurdish forces rather than focus on ISIS. US Vice President Joe Biden said Turkey was prepared to stay as long as necessary to destroy the Islamic State (ISIS). Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said attacks against Turkey will only make them more determined to push terrorist groups out of the border area. Twenty-three Kurdish parties condemned the Turkish operation “Euphrates Shield” and accused Turkey of occupying Syria. Turkish forces fired on YPG fighters south of Jarabulus on Thursday, which Turkey’s state-run Andalou agency described as warning shots. (Reuters, France24, Hurriyet)
  • 26 August 2016: Government forces dropped barrel bombs on the Bab al-Nayrab neighborhood of Aleppo, killing fifteen civilians, eleven of them children. Bab al-Nayrab is a rebel-held area of the city. The Syrian government has been accused of regularly using barrel bombs on rebel areas, but Bashar al-Assad denied using them. (Alarabiya)

Political / Key Statements

  • 26 August 2016: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva to produce a deal between Russia and the US to combat jihadists in Syria. Senior White House officials from the National Security Council (NSC) were also included in the meeting. US officials could not say whether or not the agreement would be reached today. (Reuters)
  • 26 August 2016: Colonel Ahmad Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group participating in the opposition forces fighting ISIS in Jarabulus, said their next objective is to clear towns of ISIS on their way to Marea. Marea is a frontline against ISIS. He also they were not keen on clashing with the Kurdish forces in a separate campaign, but they would if necessary. (Reuters)
  • 26 August 2016: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on over the phone about accelerating efforts to deliver aid to Aleppo. Erdogan also updated Putin  on Turkey’s incursion. Erdogan and Putin agreed on the importance of cooperation in combating all terrorist organizations. The two will meet bilaterally during the G20 Summit in China during the first week of September. (Reuters, Daily Star)
  • 26 August 2016: UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin for Russia said Russia and the US “have a joint interest in discouraging” the use of chemical weapons. Churkin spoke with US Ambassador Samantha Power on Wednesday about working together on a response to the UN/OPCW report that found both the Syrian government and ISIS used chemical weapons. (Naharnet)

Humanitarian

  • 26 August 2016: UN humanitarian office (OCHA) announced the two-part delivery to Al-Waer was the only aid convoy completed deliveries to besieged areas this month. OCHA said the “level of access to besieged areas this month is wholly unacceptable.” (Daily Star)

Notable Reports/Media/Transcripts

  • 26 August 2016: “Syria’s Paradox: Why the War Only Ever Seems to Get Worse,” by Max Fisher (NYTimes)
  • 26 August 2016: “Experts Weigh In: How to End the Stalemate in Aleppo,” by Eline Gordts (Syria Deeply)
  • 26 August 2016: “Turkey’s Syria offensive may have been delayed a year by officers who plotted coup,” by Erin Cunningham and Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    26 August 2016: “White Helmets, Omran and fading hope in Syria,” by Mehrnoush Pourziaiee (BBC)