TSI Syria Updates: September 12, 2016

Takeaway

The new plan for Syria announced on Friday by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to come into effect today with the start of a nationwide ceasefire starting at sundown, Damascus time. Key details regarding the implementation and enforcement of the plan remained unclear. Early reports from Syria suggest that violence levels had begun to decrease, although there remain questions about whether the players on the ground – both the opposition forces and the Syrian government – had actually committed.

Violence escalated ahead of the scheduled start of the ceasefire on Monday, particularly Russian and Syrian government airstrikes in the opposition held areas of Idlib and Aleppo governorates. Airstrikes hit a market in Idlib city as residents prepared to celebrate Eid al-Adha, killing 55 people. Over 100 people were killed in this series of airstrikes across these two provinces.

Military

  • September 10-11: Ahead of the agreed beginning of the ceasefire saw an increase of air strikes particularly in opposition held areas of Idlib and Aleppo governorates where airstrikes hit a market as residents prepared to celebrate Eid al-Adha. Over 100 people were killed in this series of airstrikes, with 57 people killed in Idlib city. (AFP, Al-Jazeera, EA Worldview)
  • September 12, 2016: Heavy attacks against parts of besieged Eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus continued throughout the day on Monday, some past the sundown ceasefire deadline. Less than two hours after the ceasefire was supposed to have started, a children’s play area was targeted with cluster munitions in Douma, leading to civilian casualties. (SiegeWatch 1, SiegeWatch 2)
  • September 12 2016: Early reports from the ground suggest that violent attacks had decreased, although not completely stopped, with the sunset deadline set by the US and Russia for the start of the new nationwide ceasefire. (State Department)

Political

  • September 9 2016: The new plan for Syria, announced on Friday by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to come into effect today with the start of a nationwide ceasefire starting at sundown, Damascus time. Under the terms of the deal, unfettered humanitarian access is supposed to begin flowing to besieged and hard-to-reach areas within several days of the ceasefire. After seven consecutive days of reduced violence, the US and Russia have agreed to set up a Joint Implementation Center (JIC) to coordinate military action against ISIS and al-Nusra, which are both excluded from the deal. The Syrian government will be prevented from flying combat missions in clearly delineated parts of the country. (Key details regarding the implementation and enforcement of the plan remained unclear and there are still questions about whether the players on the ground – both the opposition forces and the Syrian government – had actually committed. (Reuters, AP)
  • 11 September 2016: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the recently recaptured town of Darayya near Damascus for Eid al-Adha prayers. During the visit, Assad vowed to “retake every inch of Syria from the terrorists.” His message to Western officials is: “You are sad and vanquished, but we are happy,” in reference to international condemnation that followed the surrender of Darayya and the forcible displacement of all of its remaining population. (Al Jazeera, SANA, MEMRI)
  • 11 September 2016: On Sunday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari said Iran welcomes a ceasefire agreement in Syria and hopes it will lead to improvements in the humanitarian, security, and political situation. (Reuters, Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • 12 September 2016: The Free Syrian Army (FSA) and armed opposition groups (AOGs) led by the largest faction Ahrar al-Sham, announced they agreed to uphold the ceasefire, although they wanted clarification on certain aspects of the agreement. Their biggest frustration is being told to discontinue operations with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), a move which many armed groups reject. (Reuters, Step News Agency-AR)

Humanitarian

  • 12 September 2016: Turkey plans to send more 33 trucks of humanitarian aid into Syria on Monday once the ceasefire agreement is enacted. The aid will include children’s shoes and clothing, toys, and food. (Reuters, Turkish Foreign Ministry)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 9 September 2016: “Remarks With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura at a Press Availability” transcript (State Department)
  • 9 September 2016: “Transcript of joint stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, and UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Stephen O’Brien, following the Humanitarian Access Task Force”  (UN)
  • 10 September 2016: “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (A/HRC/33/55)” (UN Human Rights Council)
  • 10 September 2016: “Media Statement by the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura” (UN)
  • 11 September 2016: “The imperfect world of the new deal on Syria” by Hassan Hassan (The National)
  • 12 September 2016: “Remarks Before the Daily Press Briefing” Secretary John Kerry (State Department)
  • 12 September 2016: “Doubts Run Deep Among U.S. Officials Over Deal With Russia” Dan De Luce, Paul Mcleary, and John Hudson (Foreign Policy)
  • 12 September 2016: “Syria: five years of efforts to end the conflict” (AFP)