TSI Syria Updates: September 14, 2016

Takeaway

Two days into the US-Russian Cessation of Hostilities (COH), and there are few changes to report. Levels of violence have been reduced countrywide but violations continued to be reported in almost every province. UN aid trucks are still waiting in Turkey to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo because Syrian government forces have not retreated from Castello Road, and no other aid convoys to besieged or hard-to-reach areas have been attempted.

Military

  • 14 September 2016: Intense fighting between government-backed forces and armed opposition groups (AOGs) in and around Maan town in Hama province continued on Wednesday. Jihadists and armed opposition groups (AOGs) fought under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner. (SOHR, State Department)
  • 14 September 2016: Russian planes reportedly struck the headquarters of an armed opposition group (AOG) in the western Aleppo countryside on Wednesday. Abu Omar, spokesperson for the group Faylaq al-Sham, claimed Russian warplanes bombed the area after they refused to sign a truce deal to abide by the US-Russia ceasefire agreement. (All4Syria-AR)
  • 14 September 2016: The Syrian government fired on the Golan Heights on Wednesday. There are no reports of Israel retaliating. The attack comes after the Syrian government claimed it shot down Israeli aircraft on Tuesday. (AFP)

Political

  • September 2016: The Department of State clarified details of the Cessation of Hostilities (COH) agreement. The deal requires seven days of reduced violence and unimpeded humanitarian access to set up the Joint Implementation Center (JIC). If there are serious violations of the agreement, the US and Russia can agree to reset the clock on the seven days of reduced violence. Russia agreed to hold the Syrian government accountable for violations. Once the JIC is established and joint US-Russia strikes begin, the Syrian air force will not be allowed to conduct strikes in any area where armed opposition groups (AOGs) or Jabhat Fatah al-Sham forces are present.  It remains unclear what methods will be used to enforce the Syrian airforce bombing ban. The deal will not be made completely public as some points must be kept secret for security reasons, and an edited public release is forthcoming.  (US State Dept Daily Press Briefing, US State Dept Background Briefing on Syria, AP)
  • 14 September 2016: US Secretary John Kerry defended the US-Russia ceasefire agreement on Wednesday, saying it is  important to recognize the benefits of reduced violence. He claimed that the COH prevented more deaths, as well as prevented violence under siege. The goal of the ceasefire is for an environment without violence and radicalization of the besieged population which encourages civilians to join ISIS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. There are reports that Secretary Kerry and the Pentagon disagree over the ceasefire deal, with deep doubts within the defense community over working this closely with Russia..(Reuters, NPR, NYTimes, White House, DoD)

Humanitarian

  • 14 September 2016: UN aid trucks are still waiting in Turkey to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo. David Swanson, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson, said the UN loaded 20 trucks with food for 40,000 people for a month. The UN has not made deliveries because Syrian government forces have not retreated from Castello Road. The demilitarization of Castello Road is a key aspect of the US-Russia ceasefire agreement. George Sabra, President of the Syrian National Council, expressed concern over the realistic fulfillment of humanitarian aid deliveries. (AFP, Reuters)
  • 14 September 2016: Citizens in eastern Aleppo have reportedly come out for the second day to protest the UN plan to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo, stating that they want freedom rather than food. (BBC, @vszyb)
  • 14 September 2016: SARC evacuated 11 medical cases from Madaya, Fu’ah, and Kafarya. (@SYRedCrescent)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 9 September 2016: “Flow of foreign fighters plummets as Islamic State loses its edge” by Griff Witte, Sudarsan Raghavan, and James McAuely (Washington Post)
  • 12 September 2016: White House Press Briefing Press Secretary Josh Earnest (White House)
  • 13 September 2016: Daily Press Briefing with State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner (State Department)
  • 13 September 2016: Department of Defense Press Briefing by Lt. Gen. Harrigian via teleconference from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar (DoD)
  • 13 September 2016: “Dataset of Verified Videos About Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria” by Syrian Archive (Bellingcat)
  • 13 September 2016: “EU think-tank: Kurds need special status in Syria” by Wladimir van Wilgenburg (ARA News)