TSI Syria Updates: October 3, 2016

Takeaway

In the latest sign of the rapidly deteriorating diplomatic outlook for Syria, the US on Monday announced the suspension of bilateral communication channels established in hope of reinstating a Cessation of Hostilities, and ultimately jump starting peace talks. The US State Department cited Russia’s failure to live up to its commitments and the fact that “Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course” including attacks against civilian targets such as hospitals and aid convoys.

Military

  • 1 OCT: An alleged chlorine attack targeted the town of Kafr Zita in Rural Hama governorate on Saturday. According to the local Civil Defense branch, the bombs were dropped by government helicopters. Approximately two dozen civilians were hospitalized with symptoms consistent with chlorine gas. (@SyriaCivilDef, Civil Defense Hama FB)
  • 2 OCT: Clashes in and around Aleppo city continued over the weekend. Pro-government forces reportedly took control of Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area of Aleppo city on Sunday. Syrian and Russian warplanes targeted the Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood, Bustan al-Basha quarter, Castello Road, and the Malah district around Handarat camp. Airstrikes also targeted the M10 hospital and Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) health care center in the Sakhour district. M10 has the largest trauma center in eastern Aleppo and was damaged so badly it closed on Saturday. Only five hospitals remain open in eastern Aleppo. The Syrian army told armed opposition fighters to vacate eastern Aleppo in exchange for safe passage and humanitarian aid. (Reuters, Reuters, AFP, reliefweb)
  • 2 OCT: A secure field hospital built in a cave 50 feet underground near Kafr Zita in Rural Hama, was bombed by Russian aircraft on Sunday with what are believed to be earth-penetrating “bunker buster” munitions. The attacks damaged the facility, taking it out of service. (CBC) (TSI Analyst note: this cave hospital is the same facility that treated victims of the alleged chlorine attacks the day before, and is near the area of an ongoing rebel offensive)
  • 3 OCT: On Monday, the Turkish military said fighting escalated today outside the towns of Azaz and al-Rai, where Turkish special forces and the air force are providing support. Turkish warplanes bombed Dabiq, Akhtarin, and Turkman Bareh as well. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), a Turkey-backed armed opposition group, said it is closing in on the village of Dabiq, the ISIS stronghold where ISIS believes the final battle between Muslims and infidels will occur. The approach is slow because ISIS mined the area surrounding Turkman Bareh, from which FSA is advancing on Dabiq. (Reuters, Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News, NOW)  
  • 3 OCT: Syrian state media SANA reported a suicide bombing in a public square in the center of Hama city on Monday that killed two people and wounded others. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted the headquarters of the Baath Party. Armed opposition groups (AOGs) are drawing closer to take government-controlled Hama city. (Reuters, NOW)
  • 3 OCT: Syrian and Russian warplanes are shelling most of Rural Damascus today, killing civilians and damaging infrastructure. Russian planes reportedly dropped cluster bombs and barrel bombs in western Ghouta. (Step News Agency-AR)
  • 3 OCT: Sheikh Abu al-Faraj al-Masri, a prominent member of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat Fatah al-Nusra), was killed by what was believed to be a US-led coalition drone while traveling near Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province on Monday. (Reuters, EA Worldview)

Political

  • 30 SEP: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke on the phone Friday evening about “normalising” the conflict in Syria. Lavrov said the armed opposition groups (AOGs) have not yet separated from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat Fatah al-Nusra). Then on Monday the US announced the suspension of bilateral communication channels established in hope of reinstating a Cessation of Hostilities, and ultimately jump starting peace talks. The US State Department cited Russia’s failure to live up to its commitments and the fact that “Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course” including attacks against civilian targets such as hospitals and aid convoys. US personnel intended to work with the Joint Implementation Center will be withdrawn. (Reuters, Russian Foreign Ministry, TASS, State Department)
  • 30 SEP: On Friday, the NY Times released an audio recording of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s sideline meeting during the UN General Assembly, during which he expressed frustration with the peace process in Syria. Kerry said he supported backing diplomacy with military force, but he was a minority in Obama administration and lost the argument. (NY Times)
  • 2 OCT: The EU proposed a new humanitarian aid delivery plan coordinating with the UN. It requires all parties on the ground in Syria to cooperate. (Reuters, EU)

Humanitarian

  • 2 OCT: WHO said it delivered 11 tonnes of medical supplies by air to authorities in the  Al-Qamishli area, which are to be distributed throughout the region to hospitals and health care facilities. (WHO)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 30 SEP: “Syrian Rebels Taunt US Troops” by Michael Weiss (The Daily Beast)
  • 2 OCT: “Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Statement on Eastern Aleppo City, Syria, 2 October 2016” (OCHA)
  • 2 OCT: “Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides on «an emergency humanitarian initiative for Aleppo»” (EU)
  • 3 OCT: “Suffering inflicted on Aleppo’s children “brutal abdication of human rights obligations’” by UN experts (UNOG)
  • 3 OCT: “Syria Decimated Under World Watch: A Letter from Syrians Working with US, UK, And European Funded Organizations” (Huffington Post)