TSI Syria Updates: February 9, 2017

Takeaway

As Turkish-backed forces and pro-government forces continued to converge on the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of Al-Bab today, a Russian airstrike hit a building used by the Turkish Army outside of the city. The strike killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express his condolences and discuss methods of avoiding future accidents. There is speculation that the strike may have been intentional, as it follows unconfirmed reports that the Syrian military and Hezbollah have begun clashing with Turkish-backed “Euphrates Shield” opposition fighters near al-Bab in the village of al-Ghuz.

Military

  • 8 FEB: Last night the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) targeted a Syrian military building west of Quneitra after a tank round landed in Israel’s territory. No injuries or deaths were reported. (IDF Twitter, all4SyriaAR, Step News Agency-AR)
  • 8 FEB: Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis released a statement about US airstrikes conducted last weekend, which targeted Al-Qaeda terrorists near Idlib. The strike on Saturday killed Abu Hani al-Masri, a senior Al-Qaeda figure with ties to Awman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. (US Defense Department, CNN, BBC)
  • 9 FEB: On Thursday morning, the Syrian military reportedly fired a toxic chemical, believed to be chlorine, at fighters from the FSA-linked Rahman Corps on the outskirts of the Arbin neighborhood of Eastern Ghouta amidst an ongoing offensive in the area. One fighter was killed after he lost consciousness and fell on a hot stove, and three were taken to the hospital with symptoms that support the suspicions of a chlorine attack. (Smart News Agency-AR, Step News Agency-AR, Anadolu News Agency, @SiegeWatch) (Analyst note: this is the second suspected chlorine attack on Arbin this week, and the third in Eastern Ghouta since 30 January 2017)
  • 9 FEB: On Thursday morning, a Russian airstrike near al-Bab killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded an additional 11. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences and discuss methods of avoiding future accidents. The airstrikes occurred after unconfirmed reports that the Syrian military and Hezbollah have begun clashing with Turkish-backed “Euphrates Shield” opposition fighters near al-Bab in the village of al-Ghuz. (Hurriyet Daily News, BBC, Reuters, Kremlin-RU, EA Worldview, @Conflicts, @SonKaleTurkiye2, @Charles_Lister, Situation Map)
  • 9 FEB: The opposition group Jund al-Aqsa reportedly took control of the city of Kafr Zita in Hama today during clashes with pro-government forces. (Smart News Agency-AR, Qasion)

Political

  • 9 FEB: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over the phone today about the situation in Syria and Turkish-Russian relations. (Russian Foreign Ministry)
  • 9 FEB: US Defense Department and Russian Defense Ministry video conference yesterday in ongoing sessions to organize flights over Syria and avoid accidents. (US Defense Department)
  • 9 FEB: Today several opposition groups (AOGs) in the Daraa and Quneitra provinces announced a merger to form a new group called “Alliance of Southern Forces” with the intent to unify military action. Some of the groups absorbed previously operated under the Free Syrian Army (FSA). (Shaam NewsAR, Step News AgencyAR, Smart News AgencyAR)
  • 9 FEB: The United States CIA Director Mike Pompeo is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Thursday to discuss joint cooperation in the fight against ISIS and meet directly with the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (AP, Al-Jazeera)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 8 FEB: “The last days in Aleppo” – Karam Al-Masri and Rana Moussaoui (AFP)
  • 8 FEB: “Battle to retake Syrian  City Turns Into a Geopolitical Test of the War” – Anne Barnard (NY Times)
  • 8 FEB: “Understanding How the Syrian Conflict Politicized Religious Identity” – Basma Alloush (Atlantic Council)
  • 9 FEB: “Statement by Ali Al-Za’tari, the UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria on attack on Syrian Arab Red Crescent distribution center in Aleppo city, Syria,” (UN OCHA)
  • 9 FEB: “If Trump Wants Safe Zones in Syria, There Have to be Boots on the Ground” – Fred Hoff (Foreign Policy)
  • 9 FEB: “The CIA’s man in Syria: The rise and fall of a CIA -backed rebel commander in Syria” – Erika Solomon (The Financial Times)
  • 9 FEB: “Assessing the Claim that the United States Bombed an Aid Headquarters in Syria” – Christiaan Triebert (Bellingcat)