TSI Syria Updates: October 10, 2016

Takeaway

It was a dramatic weekend at the UN as the Security Council held votes on two competing Syria Resolutions this Saturday. Russia, backed by Venezuela, vetoed a French Resolution to end the violence in Aleppo, which UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura warned could be completely destroyed within two months at the current rate. The Council then held a vote on a last-minute Russia Resolution which was voted down by a vote of 9 – 4. The UK Ambassador to the UN delivered a scathing rebuke to Russia in his statement during the session, and later the UK, US and French delegations walked out in protest when Russia gave Syria’s Ambassador the floor.

Military

  • 9 OCT: Government attacks against Rural Damascus communities continued over the weekend. On Sunday, three airstrikes targeted the besieged town of Douma with incendiary bombs believed to contain white phosphorus. The partially besieged town of Khan al-Shieh, a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Western Ghouta was also targeted with incendiary weapons in what were believed to be Russian airstrikes. The strikes caused a large fire, damaging civilian homes. (SCD Damascus Facebook – AR, All4Syria – AR, Khan al-Shieh media center video)
  • 10 OCT: A car bomb explosion hit eastern Idlib countryside targeting armed opposition group (AOG) Ahrar al Sham and killing six people including an electronic specialist and four other fighters and a civilian woman nearby at around 3pm on Monday Damascus time. Witnesses nearby say it was not through an airplane strike and may have been a drone instead. Tension persists between Ahrar al Sham and Jund al-Aqsa (JAA) after the latter joined Jabhat Fatah al-Sham over the weekend (see political section for more). Reported clashes continued between Ahrar al Sham and JAA in Musaybeen southern Idlib countryside, (Step Agency – AR, Shaam Network – AR, AP)
  • 10 OCT: Reports of toxic gas used in northern Hama by the Syrian government as rebels announce regaining control the northeastern countryside in offensive against the Syrian army. The Syrian government had launched a counteroffensive to combat opposition gains during the infighting between JAA and Ahrar al Sham. The Syrian government gained territory in the northeast, but has since lost it to other rebel groups in the active battle for parts of northern Hama. The Syrian government continues to attack northern Hama governorate in the areas of Maardes, and Kubbariyah. (Shaam Network – AR, Asharq Al-Awsat– AR, EA Worldview)
  • 10 OCT: Missile strikes in al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo city kill five civilians and injure dozens more. Air strikes targeted the Sid Alloz road in the al-Shaar area causing several buildings to collapse. Mortar shells by the regime continue to target this area injuring dozens of civilians. Reported clashes continued between the Syrian government and AOGs in Sheikh Saeed and Bustan al Pasha neighborhoods in Aleppo city. (Sham Network – AR, EA Worldview)
  • 10 OCT: Armed groups including JFS and more moderate factions have announced the start of a new offensive called the “Ashura Offensive” in the Jabal al-Akrad area of Latakia governorate. (Terror Monitor – Tweet, Step News Agency)

Political

  • 8 OCT: On Saturday the UN Security Council voted on, and vetoed, two competing resolutions on Syria. A Resolution proposed by Spain and France received 11 affirmative votes but was vetoed by Russia and Venezuela. It was the fifth time that Russia has vetoed a Resolution on Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011. A second Resolution proposed by Russia received only 4 affirmative votes, while 9 council members voted against it. (UN News)
  • 8 OCT: (continued) There was intense diplomatic drama surrounding the Saturday votes at the Security Council. During the session, Matthew Rycroft, the UK Ambassador the UN, gave a scathing speech against Russian actions, calling the Resolution proposed by Russia “a sham” before staging a walkout of the US, French, and British delegations when Russia gave the floor to Syria’s UN Representative. (Independent, UKUN Tweet)
  • 9 OCT: In the second presidential debate on Sunday, Donald Trump disputed the positions on Syria put forward earlier by his VP running make Mike Pence. When one of the moderators reminded Trump that Pence said Russian aggression must be met by force and that the US should potentially prepare to strike Assad military targets, Trump responded “He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.” (Fortune – Full Transcript, Aljazeera, Politico)
  • 9 OCT: With Jund al-Aqsa (JAA) facing growing losses in Idlib in the offensive launched by Ahrar al-Sham with the backing of other Syrian armed opposition groups, the group pledged allegiance to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS – formerly al-Nusra) on Sunday. The move was designed to provide protection for JAA and end the infighting, but may end up backfiring on both JAA and JFS, as Ahrar al-Sham and more moderate groups have vowed to continue fighting. (AP, Lister – Facebook, EA Worldview) (Analyst Note: Both JFS/Nusra and its offshoot Jund al-Aqsa are designated by the US State Department as terrorist organizations. This infighting could provide a window of opportunity for the US to push for the rest of the opposition to physically separate from JFS, which has been a sticking point in ceasefire negotiations.)
  • 10 OCT: On Monday, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that France will being working towards an International Criminal Court investigation of Russia for possible war crimes committed during its bombing of Aleppo, Syria. The statement came three days after US Secretary of State John Kerry called for Russia and Syria to face war crimes investigations over their recent attacks on hospitals, and two days after Russia vetoed a French Resolution to save Aleppo. (The Independent)

Humanitarian

  • 10 OCT: Talks are ongoing for Jordan to allow regular crane aid drops to refugees in desert area along its borders, but nothing is finalized according to government officials. (AP)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 6 OCT: “Remarks at the the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre & Syria Survivors of Torture Initiative Donor Conference” (US State Dept)
  • 8 OCT: “Security Council Fails to Adopt Two Draft Resolutions on Syria, Despite Appeals for Action Preventing Impending Humanitarian Catastrophe in Aleppo” (UN Security Council)
  • 8 OCT: Security Council, 7785th meeting” “The situation in the Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic).” (Full Video – Web TV)
  • 8 OCT: “Jean-Marc Ayrault (France) on Syria – Security Council Media Stakeout” (Web TV)
  • 8 OCT: “Explanation of Vote on a Security Council Resolution on Syria proposed by France and Spain” Ambassador David Pressman, US Mission to UN (USUN)
  • 8 OCT: “Explanation of Vote on a Security Council Resolution on Syria proposed by Russia” Ambassador David Pressman, US Mission to UN (USUN)