TSI Syria Updates: September 19, 2016

Takeaway

“Bombs falling like rain” in and around Aleppo, as ceasefire ends, with reports of more than 100 bombs falling in less than 24 hours. Among the targets was a humanitarian aid convoy sent by the UN and SARC across lines near Orem al-Kubra (Big Orem). The 31-truck convoy was targeted with double tap strikes reportedly by Russian jets and Syrian helicopters. Approximately 12 aid workers including the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Aleppo were killed in the attack, which took place shortly after the Syrian military declared an end to the US-Russia ceasefire agreement.

Just two days earlier, a US-led coalition strike mistakenly killed over 60 Syrian military personnel outside of Deir Ezzor on Saturday while reportedly trying to target ISIS. The US apologized for the attack and said that it quickly halted the operation when Russia alerted them to the fact that they may have been hitting Syrian forces. The event prompted Russia to call an emergency UN Security Council session on Saturday evening and saw US and Russian diplomats exchange harsh words.

Military

  • 17 September 2016: On Saturday, a US-led coalition strike on Jebel Tharda, outside of Deir Ezzor, killed about sixty people and injured a hundred of Syrian military personnel. According to the US, the killing of Syrian military forces was a mistake, and they believed they were targeting the Islamic State (ISIS). The Pentagon halted the strike when it learned they had possibly targeted Syrian military forces, adding that their Russian counterparts were informed of the strike beforehand and raised no objections. Peter Cook, Pentagon Press Secretary, said the Department of Defense was still investigating the airstrike near Deir Ezzor. On Monday, the British defense ministry stated it participated in the strike, but that it “would not intentionally target Syrian military units.” An unconfirmed report says US may give condolence payments to families of Syrian troops killed in the airstrike. (Reuters, US CENTCOM, DoD, Reuters, @barbarastarrcnn)
  • 18 September 2016: The Syrian military said on Sunday one of its planes was shot down outside of Deir Ezzor in a counter-ISIS operation. ISIS claimed responsibility for the downed plane. (Reuters)
  • 18 September 2016: The Syrian government and Russia carried out heavy strikes on Aleppo city Sunday evening, with activists reporting more than 100 strikes in 24 hours. They were the first strikes against Aleppo since the ceasefire began a week ago, Monday September 12. Sunday’s death toll was the highest since the start of the ceasefire a week ago. (AFP, SOHR, BBC, Charles Lister, Liz Sly)
  • 19 September 2016: Turkey continues to clear northern Syria of “terror.” On Monday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey may extend their “safe zone” even further than the already cleared 900 square kilometers along the Syria-Turkey border. Turkey is now moving artillery further south toward the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of al-Bab. US Special Forces joined Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) this weekend to help combat ISIS near Jarabulus and Al-Rai. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 19 September 2016: A 31-truck humanitarian aid convoy sent by the UN and SARC across lines near Orem al-Kubra (Big Orem) to the west of Aleppo city was targeted with double tap strikes by Russian jets and Syrian helicopters. Approximately 12 aid workers including the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Aleppo were killed in the attack, which took place shortly after the Syrian military declared an end to the US-Russia ceasefire agreement. (@OCHA_Syria, @Al_Homsh, Ein Baladi-AR, Reuters, Syrian Civil Defense-AR, @ICRC-sy)

Political

  • 17 September 2016: Russia called an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Saturday night following the US-led coalition strike that killed Syrian military personnel near Deir Ezzor. Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, called the emergency meeting a “stunt replete with moralism and grandstanding…uniquely cynical and hypocritical” because Russia regularly ignored the Syrian government’s consistent and systematic attacks against its own people. Russia’s UN Representative Vitaly Churkin reacted to Power’s comments, appalled by her absence from the emergency session to speak to the press, and accused the US of suspicious and intentional behavior striking Syrian armed forces.  Bashar Ja’afari, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, said it was proof the US and its allies support ISIS. Ja’afari also said the strike intended to make the US-Russia truce fail. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on Sunday the strike was a result of the US refusing to cooperate with Russia. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahran Ghasemi condemned the airstrike, claiming it was not a military mistake. (Reuters, UN webtv, UN webtv, SANA, Russian Foreign Ministry, EA Worldview
  • 17 September 2016: In an interview with Al-Jazeera Saturday night, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, leader of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), said the US-Russia ceasefire deal was aligned with Assad’s policy. (EA Worldview)
  • 19 September 2016: The Syrian military declared an end to the US-Russia agreement. The US has yet to comment on the USRussian brokered ceasefire deal amid the coalition strike and the reported Russian double tap air strike attack on an aid convoy in Western Aleppo province. Russian Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy said the ceasefire is essentially pointless with so many violations at this point, essentially signalling support for the end of the truce. (Reuters, ABC,  SANA-AR)
  • 19 September 2016: Talal Barazi, governor of Homs city, said armed opposition group (AOG) fighters will be evacuated from the Al-Waer district of Homs. The evacuation was supposed to begin today, but was delayed until Tuesday. (Reuters)
  • 19 September 2016: UN aid convoys remain stuck on Turkish border. Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said he is disappointed UN aid has yet to reach eastern Aleppo. On Saturday, the Syrian government claimed it was doing all it could to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, though it could not guarantee safe passage for the aid convoys while armed opposition groups (AOGs) fired on Castello Road. On Monday US Secretary of State John Kerry said aid was flowing into besieged areas of Syria. (Reuters, OCHA, Reuters, NYTimes)

Humanitarian

  • 18 September 2016: Syrian Red Crescent delivered 10 trucks of aid to Talbiseh on Sunday. (@SARC_Homs)
  • 19 September 2016: ICRC, Syrian Red Crescent and UN delivered 45 trucks with food for 84,000 people and water to Talbiseh, Homs today (@ICRC_sy).
  • 19 September 2016: Unconfirmed reports of aid deliveries to Al-Waer neighborhood of Homs and Moadamiya outside Damascus.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 16 September 2016: “Syria Consultations on Russia-US Agreement” (What’s In Blue)
  • 16 September 2016: “No easy choices, but one imperative: impartial assistance to all in need” by Kevin M. Kennedy, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis (Huffington Post)
  • 16 September 2016: “US Commandos Enter, Leave, and Return to Syrian Town, With Some Help From Friendly Rebels” by Paul Mcleary (Foreign Policy)
  • 17 September 2016: “Samantha Power (USA) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout (17 September 2016)” (UN webtv)
  • 17 September 2016: “Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout (17 September 2016)” (UN webtv)
  • 17 September 2016: “Joint NGO letter on the cessation of hostilities in Syria” (Global Centre)
  • 17 September 2016: “Coalition Halts Airstrike in Progress Against Possible Syrian Military Position” US Central Command (DoD)
  • 19 September 2016: “Statement on Humanitarian Access to Eastern Aleppo” by Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA)
  • 19 September 2016: “No More ‘Hama Rules’” by Raphaël Lefèvre (Carnegie)
  • 19 September 2016: “‘Syria is the World’s Problem’” A Group of Syrian Intellectuals (Syria Deeply)