TSI Syria Updates: September 29, 2016

Takeaway

Russian Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia will continue its air raids against eastern Aleppo, despite a US threat to suspend bilateral cooperation efforts with Russia in Syria if it does not end the attacks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov derided the ultimatum, calling it an “emotional breakdown.” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the US believes diplomacy is the best option for resolving the conflict in Syria, but it is considering “other options that are outside diplomacy.”

Military

  • 29 SEP: Russian Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia will continue its air raids against eastern Aleppo in support of Syrian government forces, despite a US ultimatum to end the attacks or risk US-Russian bilateral cooperation. Peskov said that while Russia is willing to re-establish a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire with the US, Russia does not support a seven-day ceasefire because it allows terrorist groups to restock and regroup. (AFP, NY Times)
  • 29 SEP:  Unconfirmed reports of pro-government forces, Palestinian militia Liwa al-Quds, along with SAA troops reportedly took control of the Handarat, a Palestinian refugee camp, along with the Kindi hospital north of Aleppo city, after control exchanged hands several times between opposition armed forces (AOGs) though clashes surrounding it continue. (Reuters, Twitter – Michael Horowitz)
  • 29 SEP: On Thursday, armed opposition groups (AOGs), including Jund al Aqsa and Jabhat Fatah al Sham (formerly Nusra) made gains in their offensive against pro-government forces by taking control of two Alawite villages north of Hama city, Khafsin and Karah. AOGs have made steady progress since late August fighting their way south from the north of Hama province to the city of Hama. The offensive required pro-government forces to move from the Aleppo offensive to the Hama front. (Reuters, Step News Agency-AR, all4syria-AR, EA Worldview)
  • 29 SEP: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) and pro-government forces clashed in the city of Qudsaya in Damascus governorate, when pro-government forces launched an incursion on Thursday. The Syrian government is reportedly trying to force the city to accept a new truce. Unconfirmed documents indicate fighters need to lay down their arms or leave. The Commission in Qudsaya met with government representatives to negotiate a truce due to the deterioration of their humanitarian condition. (Step News Agency-AR, @putintintin1)

Political

  • 29 SEP: Today, Russian officials strongly responded to comments made by US State Department spokesperson John Kirby during Wednesday’s press briefing. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov called it an “emotional breakdown.” Major-General Igor Konashenkov,  Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson, said Russia will continue to work diplomatically with the US in spite of “threats” made against Russian soldiers. Russian Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia had “taken note of the rather unconstructive character of rhetoric from Washington.” Peskov and Ryabkov both claimed Kirby’s comments indicate the US supports terrorism against Russia. Kirby said it is in Russia’s interest to establish peace in Syria; otherwise extremists will exploit the power vacuum in Syria, which could lead to attacks against Russian interests in Syria and at home. Josh Earnest, White House spokesperson, said Russia does not seem to have a strategy for protecting their national interests in contributing to sectarian conflict in Syria. Ryabkov mentioned that Russia would support a 48-hour ceasefire for humanitarian aid, but that the Obama administration is unwilling to fulfill its part of the ceasefire agreement in Syria.  (Reuters, AP, AFP, RT, Russian Foreign Defence-RU, State Department, Sputnik)
  • 29 SEP: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu sad Turkey is willing to work with Russia on a ceasefire and aid delivery in Syria. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, confirmed the potential for Turkey-Russia cooperation. (Hurriyet Daily News, Reuters)
  • 29 SEP: Deputy UN Syria Envoy Ramzy Ramzy said medical evacuations are “the utmost priority at this point.” There are an estimated 600 wounded without proper medical care in eastern Aleppo. Ramzy indicated that potentially hundreds of medical evacuations out of Aleppo are needed. (UNOG)
  • 29 SEP: US officials confirmed they sent light arms directly to the Arab contingent of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Kurdish officials claimed the US promised to arm them as well if they lead the offensive against al-Raqqa, an Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold. The Kurdish YPG are the primary component of the SDF. (The Guardian)
  • 29 SEP: Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien addressed the UN Security Council today on Syria. He called the Security Council to action: “It is time to place blame. It is time this Council stops tolerating the utter disregard for the most basic provisions of international humanitarian law.” O’Brien also said that Aleppo is well on its descent into a “merciless abyss of a humanitarian catastrophe unlike any we have witnessed in Syria.” (OCHA, webtv)

Humanitarian

  • none

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 28 SEP: “Daily Press Briefing” John Kirby, US State Department Spokesperson” (State Department)
  • 29 SEP: “Transcript of Stakeout by Deputy UN Special Envoy for Syria, Ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy” (UNOG)
  • 29 SEP: “Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Statement to the Security Council on Syria, New York, 29 September 2016” (OCHA, WebTV)
  • 29 SEP: “Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout (29 Sept 2016)” (WebTV)
  • 29 SEP: Ambassador Samantha Power, “Remarks before UN Security Council Consultations on Syria” (USUN)
  • 1 OCT: “The agony of Aleppo” (The Economist)