TSI Syria Updates: November 14, 2016

Takeaway

Opposition factions in eastern Aleppo city announced the creation of a unified Leadership Council today. This comes after the Syrian government sent an ominous text message to residents of the besieged half of the city warning people to evacuate within 24 hours. Though a Russian-led aerial campaign against eastern Aleppo did not begin last week as expected, tensions remain high and battles continue on the outskirts of the city as rebel attempts to break the siege continue to be pushed back by pro-government forces. Russian jets launched from the Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier have begun flying training missions over Aleppo.

Military

  • 14 NOV: On Friday, Russia launched first combat jets from Admiral Kuznetzov aircraft carrier. On Monday, one of Russia’s MiG-29K fighter jets crashed into the sea while attempting to land on the Kuznetzov after a training mission over Syria. The pilot ejected in time and rescued. (news.com.au, AP)
  • 12 NOV: On Saturday, the Syrian government took control of the Dahiyet al-Assad district in western Aleppo and the nearby village of Minian, recapturing areas previously gained by opposition. (Reuters)
  • 13 NOV: On Sunday evening, the Syrian government sent a mass text message to residents of eastern Aleppo warning them to evacuate within 24 hours or prepare to be bombed. (CNN, Al-Jazeera, @AlabedBana)  
  • 13 NOV: On Sunday, Turkish planes bombed 15 Islamic State (ISIS) targets in the al-Bab area. The Turkish military said ten ISIS defensive positions, command centers, and an ammunition store were destroyed. (Reuters)
  • 13 NOV: The Russian Defense Ministry claimed armed opposition in eastern Aleppo used chemical weapons against the Syrian army Sunday evening. This report has not been confirmed by a third party. (Reuters, TASS)
  • 14 NOV: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) clashed today in the city of Azaz, which is about 35 mile north of Aleppo city. The fighting between opposition groups gave the Syrian government an advantage in the fight for Aleppo city. Turkey closed the nearest border crossing to Azaz as a supposedly temporary security precaution. The crossing faces the city Bab al-Salama and is still open to ambulances and humanitarian aid. (Reuters, Reuters)
  • 14 NOV: Today Russian warplanes reportedly targeted the Syrian Civil Defense’s (White  Helmets) center in Khan al-Sheih. This follows intensive bombardments by pro-government forces over the weekend. A UNRWA employee was among several killed in an airstrike on Sunday that targeted the Huda Mosque.  (@SyriaCivilDefe, @SCDrifdimashq, @SCDrifdimashq, UNRWA)
  • 14 NOV: Two hospitals in the countryside of Aleppo governorate were targeted today in Syrian and Russian airstrikes. This reportedly brings the total to seven hospitals in northern Syria targeted just since Friday. (Reuters, @SAMS Tweet)

Political

  • 10 NOV: On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump said he would likely stop supporting opposition groups fighting the Syrian government. Trump wants to continue fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), but not to fight Russia or Syria. (NY Times, WSJ)
  • 10 NOV: President Barack Obama ordered the Pentagon to find and kill leaders of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), giving US military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) wider authority and more intelligence-collection resources to pursue the leadership. (Washington Post)
  • 14 NOV: Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today that Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama may speak about Syria this week while they are both in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Peskov added that Putin does not have immediate plans to personally meet with President-elect Donald Trump. The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that Lavrov and Kerry spoke by phone today and agreed to continue expert-level consultations to resolve the Syria crisis. (Reuters, Reuters)
  • 14 NOV: Today the European Union placed sanctions on 17 government ministers and Syria’s central bank chief. They are under travel bans and asset freezes, which puts the total number of Syrian individuals sanctioned with both travel bans and asset freezes at 234. (Reuters, EU, EUR-Lex)
  • 14 NOV: Today the military factions fighting in eastern Aleppo announced the  formation of a Leadership Council of Aleppo to bring all of the armed factions under one leadership structure. (Enab Baladi-AR, The Australian)

Humanitarian

  • 13 NOV: On Sunday, the Syrian government allowed food, bread, and gas into the village Taqsis in Hama province. Government forces had prevented entry of aid for about a year. (SMART News-AR)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 11 NOV: “Executive Council Decision – OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism Reports on Chemical Weapons Use in The Syrian Arab Republic” (OPCW)
  • 11 NOV: “US Scraps Plan to Punish Syria for Using Chemical Weapons” by Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy)
  • 13 NOV: “The Disappeared of Syria” (Al-Jazeera)
  • 14 NOV: “How the White Helmets Have Evolved During the Civil” by Hasan Arfeh (Syria Deeply)
  • 14 NOV: “Aleppo: Enduring and innovating in the midst of conflict” by Lyric Lewin and Nadeem Muaddi (CNN)