TSI Syria Updates: October 25, 2016

Takeaway

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces took control of several small towns in the northern Aleppo countryside en route to the strategic town of Al-Bab as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. There are unconfirmed claims that Russian jets targeted the Turkish backed forces for the first time, in coordination with a Kurdish ground assault by the YPG.

Military

  • 25 OCT: The Turkish military announced today that Turkish-backed Syrian forces gained control of the three areas of Tuwes, Al-Gharz, and Talatayna in northern Syria between the towns of Al-Bab and Marea north of Aleppo city, as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. There are unconfirmed claims that the Russian airforce targeted nearby Tel Madiq, recently captured from ISIS as part of the operation, in coordination with a ground assault by Kurdish forces. If true, this would mark the first time that Russia has targeted the Turkish-backed fighters. The Turkish military claimed it shelled 72 Islamic State (ISIS) and 15 Kurdish YPG targets. (Reuters, EA Worldview, Step news -AR)
  • 25 OCT: Today Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said there have been neither Russian nor Syrian flights, and no airstrikes over Aleppo city for the past seven days. He added that about 50 civilians used six humanitarian corridors to leave eastern Aleppo. Another Russian defense ministry official claimed that Russia would extend the pause for an unspecified length of time. Russia’s claims are contradictory to those by monitoring organizations and the UN, which indicate that strikes have restarted as of Sunday and there have not been civilian evacuations.  (RT, Reuters, AP, Reuters, Syria Deeply)
  • 25 OCT: British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said British forces will support moderate opposition forces as they combat the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. British military personnel will be based in Turkey and Jordan, along with American personnel, to train armed opposition fighters. (The Telegraph, Independent)
  • 25 OCT: Russian and Syrian airstrikes targeted Jisr al-Shughoor in Idlib governorate with cluster bombs for the second day in a row, killing at least five civilians and wounding more than ten. The intensity of the air raids caused the local clinic to put out a call for O negative blood donations. (Enab Baladi -AR, Step -AR)

Political

  • 24 OCT: On Monday US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, over the phone about the renewal of Russian and Syrian airstrikes and ground assaults against Aleppo. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov emphasized the need to separate moderate opposition from terrorist groups. (State Department, Russian Foreign Ministry)
  • 25 OCT: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey will take measures on its own against Kurdish forces in Manbij if the Kurdish forces do not withdraw to the east of the Euphrates River. (Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 25 OCT: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO is concerned about Russian warships going to Syria could increase airstrikes against civilians in Aleppo. NATO is monitoring the group of eight carrier ships traveling from Russia to the Mediterranean. (Reuters)
  • 25 OCT: Rebels in Eastern Ghouta today announced the formation of a new group called the “Brigade of Glory,” dedicated to fighting the Assad government. The group is made up of defectors from other local opposition groups, and comes amidst months of infighting between the main groups, Jaish al-Islam and Faliq al-Rahman, during which time the pro-Assad forces have made significant advances into Eastern Ghouta. Protesters came out again today to demand that local factions unite. (all4syria -AR, Step News Agency Video -AR, Enab Baladi -AR)
  • 25 OCT: Spain is facing criticism from other members of NATO over news that tomorrow it will refuel Russia’s deployment of battleships headed for the Syrian coast. (Telegraph)

Humanitarian

  • 24 OCT: A car loaded with 3,500 loaves of bread reportedly entered besieged Al-Waer on Monday. This was not a UN aid convoy, but instead a shipment for sale. (SMART News Agency-AR)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 21 OCT: “Barred From UN Work, Russian Contractors Are Back, Airdropping Aid in Syria” by Somini Sengupta and Sophia Kishkovsky (NY Times)
  • 25 OCT: “New Evidence of Russian Incendiary Bombs Used in Attacks Against Civilians in Duma” by Hady Al-Khatib (bellingcat)
  • 25 OCT: “What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought” By Si Sheppard (The Atlantic)
  • 25 OCT: “
What are the Opinions of Syrians on Local Councils in Liberated Areas?” (The Day After)
  • 25 OCT: “ ‘There Are No More Panes of Glass Left in Aleppo’ ” By Raja Abdulrahim (WSJ)