TSI Syria Updates: October 19, 2016

Takeaway

There were no reports of airstrikes in Aleppo today after Russia announced it was unilaterally ceasing its bombardment yesterday in preparation for a “humanitarian pause” on Thursday. This was in advance of today’s meeting between US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney and Russian officials in Geneva to discuss methods of separating moderate fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, formerly al-Nusra) in Aleppo. Russia says it is willing to extend the humanitarian pause on Thursday if moderate fighters separate from JFS. The UN has said that the ceasefire Russia announced for Thursday is insufficient, and a minimum of 48 hours is needed to deliver aid.

Military

  • 19 OCT: The evacuation of residents from Moadamiyet al-Sham started today following a deal with the Syrian regime’s forces. Between 2,000-3,000 people were evacuated in government buses with Red Crescent volunteers present. The evacuees include fighters and their families, media activists, and others on a regime “black list.” In addition to locals, people from Darayya, Mezzeh, and Kafr Sousa who had been displaced to Moadamiyah were among the evacuees. As in earlier besieged area evacuations, the newly displaced will be taken to opposition-controlled Idlib governorate. (Hajez-AR, Al-Jazeera-AR, @SYRedCrescent, @SiegeWatch)
  • 19 OCT: The Zakiya town council and armed opposition group (AOG) leaders met with Syrian government representatives today as the Syrian government and its allies continued attacks against Zakiya and Khan al-Sheih in western Ghouta. AOG leaders rejected the Syrian government’s conditions. (Step News Agency-AR)
  • 18 OCT: Unconfirmed reports of the evacuation of more than 40 families by Hezbollah forces and the Syrian government from the al-Asali checkpoint north of Buqain to nearby besieged Madaya. The pretext given for displacing the families was “security reasons” and threats of sniper shootings. (Umayya Press – AR, @ShamAgency-AR, Step Agency-AR)

Political

  • 19 OCT: The UN announced that the Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday at 10 am  to discuss the human rights situation in Aleppo city. Britain submitted a request for the meeting on behalf of 11 Western and Arab countries (including the US), with support from 33 signatory countries. (UNOG, Reuters)
  • 19 OCT: US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney met with Russian officials today in Geneva to discuss methods of separating moderate fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, formerly al-Nusra) in Aleppo. Officials from Qatar and Saudi Arabia were also present. Russia reportedly favors the UN plan to evacuate JFS fighters in exchange for a ceasefire, and offered to extend the humanitarian pause on Thursday if opposition fighters separate themselves from JFS. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Russia is unwilling to extend the Thursday humanitarian pause in Aleppo if moderate opposition does not distance themselves from JFS because “A unilateral extension is equivalent to a unilateral retreat.” (Reuters, Interfax, Reuters)

Humanitarian

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 12 OCT: “Identical letters dated 11 October 2016 from the Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council” (UN)
  • 17 OCT: “Russian air defense raises stakes of US confrontation in Syria” by Karen DeYoung (The Washington Post)
  • 18 OCT: “Moscow’s Promise to Stop Bombing Aleppo For 8 Hours Is Not Enough – In Fact It Could Be A Trap” by James Miller (The Interpreter)
  • 18 OCT: “The Debate Over Syria Has Reached a Dead End” by Bassam Haddad (The Nation)
  • 19 OCT: “Far from Aleppo, Syrian army advance brings despair to besieged Damascus suburb” by Ellen Francis (Reuters)