TSI Syria Updates: October 18, 2016

Takeaway

The Russian Foreign Ministry unexpectedly announced the halt of Syrian and Russian airstrikes against Aleppo city today. The ceasefire will reportedly last 48 hours in preparation for the unilateral decision to institute an eight hour humanitarian pause on Thursday. The UN refused to deliver aid to eastern Aleppo during the ceasefire until all parties involved agreed to the ceasefire.

Military

  • 18 OCT: Today Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russian and Syrian forces stopped all airstrikes against Aleppo city this morning in preparation for the “humanitarian pause” on Thursday. Shoigu said it is meant to guarantee safe evacuation for civilians through six humanitarian corridors, and to prepare sick and wounded for medical evacuations from eastern Aleppo. Shoigu also said Syrian forces will withdraw from Castello Road to permit safe evacuation of armed opposition fighters. (Russian Defense Ministry, Reuters)
  • 18 OCT: Russia’s only aircraft carrier, The Admiral Kuznetsov, has been sighted off the coast of Norway en route to its deployment in Syria, along with several other Russian naval ships. (The Local)
  • 18 OCT: Airstrikes targeted the villages of Anadan and Darret Azzeh in the northern Aleppo countryside, shortly after Russia announced that it and Syria were pausing airstrikes against eastern Aleppo City. (Fox News)
  • 18 OCT: Airstrikes targeted al-Eman hospital in the town of Sarjeh in rural Idlib, damaging the building and equipment and taking it out of service. The airstrikes were believed to be Russian. (SNHR, Amr Bakri – YouTube)

Political

  • 18 OCT: Jens Laerke, UN OCHA spokesperson, said Russia’s unilateral decision to halt airstrikes does not automatically guarantee safety for humanitarian workers in eastern Aleppo city. Laerke reiterated the UN’s position that requires all parties in the conflict to guarantee safety for aid workers. (UN webtv, Reuters)
  • 18 OCT: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) in eastern Aleppo rejected the evacuation offer from Russia during the Russian halt of its air campaign in Aleppo. Zakaria Malahifji, one of the AOG leaders, called the proposed withdrawal a “surrender.”  (ABC, Middle East Eye, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 18 OCT: Senior US officials met in Geneva today with officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, Turkey, and Jordan to discuss Russia’s halted airstrikes against Aleppo city. Russian officials will reportedly join the talks in Geneva tomorrow. (Reuters)
  • 18 OCT: On Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG will be removed from Manbij once the Islamic State (ISIS) is removed from neighboring town al-Bab. Erdogan also said Turkey and the US are consulting on a joint military operation against al-Raqqa. (Reuters, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 18 OCT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande plan to discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow in Berlin on the sidelines of a meeting regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Merkel has been highly critical of Russia’s role in the bombing of Aleppo. (Anadolu)

Humanitarian

  • none

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 17 OCT: “SC President, Vitaly Churkin (Russian Federation) on Syria and Iraq – Security Council Media Stakeout” (UN webtv)
  • 18 OCT: “Full video of Syria’s First Lady interview with Russia-24” (Al-Masdar)