TSI Syria Updates: November 22, 2016

Takeaway

Heavy airstrikes targeted eastern Aleppo over the weekend, destroying the last few hospitals in the besieged area, including the only children’s hospital. Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing a toxic gas believed to be chlorine on the al-Sakhour, al-Qaterji, and Hanano neighborhoods over the weekend and today. Diplomatic attempts at ending the deadly barrage have not resulted in a political solution. On Sunday, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura met with Syrian government officials in Damascus to discuss a plan to end the attacks on eastern Aleppo, in which the fighters would evacuated but the area would remain under administration of the opposition local council. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem dismissed the plan outright, saying it did not respect Syria’s national sovereignty. Humanitarian conditions in eastern Aleppo are disastrous.

Military

  • 20 NOV: A temporary truce between the Syrian government and the town of Khan al-Shieh began Sunday after little progress was made in a government offensive to take the town. The truce was set to last until Tuesday night.. In the meantime, the two parties are negotiating an evacuation agreement. (Step News Agency-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • 20 NOV: Several towns in Eastern Ghouta were targeted by government air and artillery strikes on Sunday. On Monday, the Director of Education in Eastern Ghouta announced the closure of schools on Monday due to escalating violence. (@SiegeWatch, @sams_usa, all4syria-AR)
  • 22 NOV: Weekend airstrikes targeting eastern Aleppo destroyed the last hospitals in the besieged area, including the only children’s hospital. The children’s hospital was treating victims for symptoms corresponding with chlorine barrel bomb attacks on the al-Sakhour neighborhood when it was targeted. The Syrian government reportedly used chlorine in an attack against the al-Qaterji neighborhood today as well. Pro-government forces pushed further into opposition-held areas of eastern Aleppo today after making gains into the Hanano district over the weekend. The encroaching offensive is causing civilians to flee the district, which was reportedly targeted with chlorine strikes over the weekend. Meanwhile, the government reported that rebel shelling killed seven children in Western Aleppo. (AFP, Step News Agency-AR, AFP, Daily Mail, Guardian, @SiegeWatch, SMART News Agency-AR)
  • 22 NOV: The Syrian government attacked the besieged neighborhood of al-Waer in Homs city today. Strikes reportedly includes the use of incendiary munitions believed to be napalm. The neighborhood has been under heavy assault for a week. (Step News Agency-AR)
  • 22 NOV: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said today that Turkish-backed forces have besieged al-Bab, the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold in northern Syria. He also said they are looking toward Manbij for their next offensive. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 22 NOV: Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced today that an airstrike on 18 November killed a senior al-Qaeda leader, Abu Afghan al-Masri, near the village of Sarmada in northern Idlib governorate. (DoD, Reuters)

Political

  • 20 NOV: On Sunday, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura met with Syrian government officials in Damascus city to discuss a plan for eastern Aleppo. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem rejected de Mistura’s plan to end fighting in Aleppo because it entails leaving eastern Aleppo’s current local government in power. Al-Muallem said it did not respect Syria’s national sovereignty. Al-Muallem also denied that any hospitals had been bombed in the besieged area. (BBC, UNOG, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 20 NOV: 20 Syrian civil society organizations released a “New Syria” statement on Sunday. The statement laid out positions on removing the Assad government, releasing detainees, stopping the forced displacement, and Russia and Iran to pulling out of Syria. They stressed the need for unity. (all4syria-AR)
  • 20 NOV: US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about Syria on Sunday at the APEC summit in Peru. Obama said he told Putin the US is “deeply concerned about the bloodshed and chaos that’s being sown by constant bombing attacks by Assad and the Russian military against populations in Aleppo.” He also said he was “not optimistic” about the short-term prospects in Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also spoke on the sidelines of the summit, and discussed the humanitarian situation in Syria. (Reuters, Reuters, White House, State Department)
  • 21 NOV: On Monday, Turkish President Recep Erdogan called for the US and its allies to reconsider implementing a no-fly zone in Syria. (AP)
  • 21 NOV: Under-Secretary-General Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council yesterday that the number of besieged Syrians was nearly one million. The UN raised the estimate after conducting a comprehensive review of its previous reporting. He condemned the past week’s violence against eastern Aleppo. US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, chimed in on condemnations as well as, and named several Syrian military commanders involved in the killing and assault of civilians since 2011. (Reuters, OCHA, USUN) (TSI Analyst note: TSI’s Siege Watch project has consistently reported a much higher number of Syrians living under siege and has repeatedly accused the UN of underreporting the crisis, calling on the UN to revisit its assessments and amend its reporting to reflect the situation on the ground. This move by the UN brings their reporting more in line with the SIege Watch estimates,)
  • 22 NOV: Mohammadali Shahidi Mahallati, an Iranian official and head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs, said more than 1,000 Iranian soldiers deployed to Syria have been killed there. (Reuters)
  • 22 NOV: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a delegation headed by deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Raguzan to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today in Damascus. They discussed adherence to international law, and Raguzan expressed appreciation for Russia’s military, economic, and military support for the Syrian government. (all4syria-AR)

Humanitarian

  • 22 NOV: The Syrian Red Crescent, ICRC, and the UN sent a 51-truck convoy with aid for 110,000 people to al-Rastan and surrounding villages. (@OCHA_Syria, @SARC_Homs)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 19 NOV: Statement by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, 19 November 2016” (OCHA)
  • 20 NOV: “Transcript of Press Conference by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura”
  • (UNOG)
  • 20 NOV: “Secretary-General Condemns Air Assault, Indiscriminate Shelling Targeting Aleppo, Calls on All Sides in Syria Conflict to Halt Attacks against Civilians” (UN)
  • 20 NOV: “Press Conference by President Obama in Lima, Peru” (White House)
  • 21 NOV: “Under-Secretary-General For Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Statement to the Security Council on Syria New York, 21 November 2016” (OCHA)
  • 21 NOV: “Those Besieging Syrian Cities Know Security Council Unable, Unwilling to Stop Them, Emergency Relief Coordinator Says in Briefing” UN Security Council 7817th Meeting (UN)
  • 21 NOV: “Europe can stop Syria’s suffering” by Shiyar Khaleal (EU Observer)
  • 22 NOV: “Regular Press Briefing by the Information Service” (UNOG)
  • 22 NOV: “Syrian war: ‘This wasn’t written in stone; didn’t have to happen” by Justin Schuster (Syria Direct)
  • 22 NOV: “The Free Syrian Army: A decentralized insurgent brand” by Charles Lister (Brookings)