TSI Syria Updates: August 29, 2016

Takeaway

Turkish-backed forces advanced on Manbij today, after Turkish-backed forces clashed with Kurdish militia outside of Jarabulus on Saturday. Turkey launched airstrikes against both Kurdish and Islamic State (ISIS) targets, reportedly killing 41 civilians outside of Jarablus, although Turkey claimed killing 25 Kurdish “terrorists” and denied any civilian deaths. A rocket fired from Kurdish-held territory hit a Turkish tank, killing one soldier and wounding three others. Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter ISIS, said the US deemed the clashes “unacceptable and a source of deep concern.” President Tayyip Erdogan said “operations against terrorist organizations will continue until the end.”

Military

  • 28 August 2016: Buses carrying the final citizens of Darayya, including fighters, activists, and their families, safely reached opposition-controlled Idlib on Sunday. Other civilians had been evacuated to government-controlled parts of Western Ghouta the day before. No arrests were reported. Darayya is now empty and under government control. (Siege Watch Tweet, Syria Deeply, The Daily Star)
  • 28 August 2016: Jets assumed to be Syrian planes bombed the besieged neighborhood of Al-Waer, Homs over the weekend with what are believed to be incendiary munitions. Doctors in the area claimed napalm was used. A school for the deaf and mute, a charity facility, and the Al-Bir hospital were all targeted and several civilians were killed. Al-Waer has been targeted by airstrikes since a ceasefire deal with the Syrian government fell through earlier in the years.(Reuters, Siege Watch Tweet1, SW Tweet 2, SW Tweet 3, Syria Deeply)
  • 29 August 2016: Turkish-backed forces advanced on Manbij today, after Turkish-backed forces clashed with Kurdish militia on Saturday. SDF-backed forces said that it was reinforcing Manbij, but not by Kurdish members. On Saturday, Turkey launched airstrikes against both Kurdish and Islamic State (ISIS) targets reportedly killing 41 civilians outside of Jarablus; however, Turkey claimed killing 25 Kurdish “terrorists” and denied any civilian deaths. Turkish security sources said a rocket fired from Kurdish-held territory hit a Turkish tank, killing one soldier and wounding three others. (Reuters)
  • 29 August 2016: In addition to strikes on al-Amarna and Jeb el-Kussa, attacks escalated in the Kobani area as well. On Monday, Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the coalition to counter ISIS, said the US deemed the clashes “unacceptable and a source of deep concern,” particularly because ISIS is not in the areas where conflict occurred. On Monday, President Tayyip Erdogan said “operations against terrorist organizations will continue until the end.” Redur Xelil, chief spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, called the Turkish advances “flimsy pretexts to widen its occupation of Syrian land.” (BBC, Hurriyet, Aljazeera, The Telegraph, @brett_mcgurk)
  • 29 August 2016: Armed opposition groups (AOGS) launched an attack on Hama province Sunday night, to take it from the inhabitants who support the Syrian government. AOGs have taken the villages Al-Zalaqiat, Khirbat Masasinah, Al-Buwaydah, Zileen, and Helfaya. (EA Worldview, Aljazeera-ar, Step News Agency-ar)

Political / Key Statements

  • 27 August 2016: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in a joint news conference that Friday’s talks “achieved clarity on the path forward,” but did not reach a final deal. US and Russian military and intelligence experts are working to end the violence, in order to open negotiations for a political transition. Kerry also said the surrender in Darayya was forced, in against the February cessation of hostilities agreement. Lavrov said it was an “example” that should be imitated in other besieged areas. (Reuters, EA Worldview, US Department of State)
  • 27 August 2016: On Saturday, UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura called for warring sides to agree on a 48-hour humanitarian pause in Aleppo by Sunday, 28 August, 2016. De Mistura asked for no military escalations in the surrounding area. De Mistura also noted hesitance to use Castello Road, and asked that it be an accepted route for the first round of deliveries. (Reuters, UNOG)
  • 28 August 2016: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was pressuring members of the UN Security Council to condemn the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons. Ayrault said the UN/OPCW report detailing investigations of chemical use in Syria was an opportunity to pressure Russia into a resolution condemning the Syrian government and to resume political negotiations. (Reuters, Le Monde)
  • 29 August 2016: Russia submitted to the UN an offer to deploy Russian military personnel in Syria. Russian personnel would support Syrian government troops by manning military checkpoints, surveillance centers and intelligence units on Castello Road at the entrance of Aleppo. Russia wants to control the humanitarian corridors providing aid to both eastern and western Aleppo. (Gulf News)

Humanitarian

Notable Reports/Media/Transcripts

  • 26 August 2016: Remarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a Press Availability (US Department of State)
  • 27 August 2016: Media Statement by the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura (UNOG)
  • 27 August 2016: “How Turkey’s offensive into Syria is opening up a hornet’s nest” by Sudarsan Raghavan and Erin Cunningham (The Washington Post)
  • 28 August 2016: “US Revamps Line of Attack in Social-Media Fight Against Islamic State” by Nicole  Hong (The Wall Street Journal)
  • 29 August 2016: “Inside the Head of an ISIS True Believer” by Michael Weiss (The Daily Beast)
  • 29 August 2016: “The Economic Devastation of Syria: Strategic Implications” by Eran Yashiv (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • 29 August 2016: “UN pays tens of millions to Assad regime under Syria aid programme” by Nick Hopkins and Emma Beal (The Guardian)
  • 5 September 2016: “Assad’s War on Aleppo” by Steve Coll (The New Yorker)