TSI Syria Updates: February 10, 2017

Takeaway

In the aftermath of Russia’s accidental airstrike on a Turkish-held building outside of al-Bab, Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Turkey gave Russia the wrong coordinates the day before the strike was to occur and claimed Russian forces were unaware of any Turkish forces in the area at the time of the strike. The Turkish military said their forces had occupied the same position for ten consecutive days, and their coordinates had been transmitted to Russia regularly, most recently on the day of the airstrike. Despite the disagreement of the cause of the “friendly-fire,” both sides seem to be trying to move past the incident, with Russia reportedly mediating between Turkish-backed forces and pro-government forces on the ground to lessen tensions near al-Bab. It remains to be seen whether Turkey and Russia can prevent further friction and maintain their relationship while proxies for both sides compete side by side to reclaim territory from ISIS in the days ahead.

Military

  • 9 FEB: Yesterday an explosion in the government-controlled Al-Zahra neighborhood of Homs reportedly killed at least three people. It is not yet known who carried out the attacks. The Syrian government claimed it was “an explosive device planted by terrorists.” (Shaam NewsAR, Syria Direct, SANAAR)
  • 9 FEB: Russia reportedly mediated a confrontation between Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces and pro-government forces southwest of al-Bab, after the two groups exchanged fire on Thursday. Opposition groups claimed pro-government forces fired first. The clash came as Russia accidentally hit a Turkish-held building near al-Bab and killed three Turkish soldiers. (Reuters, France24)
  • 10 FEB: Turkish-backed forces made gains in the offensive to take the Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold of al-Bab today. The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups took control of Zamzam Road and the al-Hikma Hospital. The Turkish Army said it killed 23 ISIS militants. (Al-Jazeera-AR, Smart New-AR)
  • 10 FEB: The government assault against the besieged neighborhood of Al-Waer, Homs, continued into its fourth consecutive day today. The Syrian military claimed the assault started in response to sniper from al-Wa’er fire aimed at civilians on Tuesday. Local residents denied the claims. Airstrikes today killed six people. (Step News Agency-AR, Syria Direct, Al-MasdarAR)

Political

  • 8 FEB: During their phone call on Tuesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan allegedly asked US President Donald Trump to prevent any operations that would allow arms to reach Kurdish groups operating inside of Syria, in exchange for Turkey’s help fighting the Islamic State (ISIS). Trump has not yet officially commented on the issue. (Washington Post)
  • 9 FEB: Abu Jaber Al-Sheikh, the leader of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), announced on  Wednesday that HTS is not intended to represent any past opposition groups that operated in Syria over the past six years, but is a general project designed to merge all previous groups together under a single name. (Shaam NewsAR, Full Statement-AR/EN)
  • 9 FEB: On Thursday Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Kakharova said the Amnesty International report documenting mass killings in Saydnaya prison was fabricated “as another deliberate provocation aimed at adding fuel into the waning intra-Syrian conflict.” (Russian Foreign Ministry, Smart NewsAR)
  • 10 FEB: Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed the coordinates for the airstrike that killed three and injured eleven Turkish soldiers on Thursday, were originally communicated to the Turkish Chief of Staff in advance of the strikes. The Turkish military denied this claim, stating that their soldiers had been in the same place for ten days and their coordinates had been transmitted to Russia regularly, most recently on the day of the airstrike. (Hurriyet Daily News, RT, BBCTurkish)
  • 10 FEB: In a Yahoo News interview released on Friday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Amnesty International’s recent report on mass hangings in Saydnaya prison “fake news” based on false evidence. He also rejected the idea of foreign nations creating safe zones in  Syria. Assad said the best way to ensure the safety of the Syrian people is to work with the Syrian government to create stability. (Yahoo News, Reuters, Full Interview)
  • 10 FEB: The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) for the Syrian opposition met in Riyadh on Friday, to discuss the upcoming Geneva talks and choose their representatives.The discussions will continue on Saturday. The Geneva talks are scheduled to take place on February 20th.  (Al-Arabiya, Al-Jazeera-AR, Smart News-AR)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 7 FEB: “The Syrian Uprising: Six Years On” – Razan Ghazzawi and Ramah Kudaimi (Jacobin)
  • 9 FEB: “The Campaign to Retake Raqqa is Accelerating” – Fabrice Balanche (Washington Institute)
  • 9 FEB: “The colonels shaping Trump’s Middle East policy” – Laura Rozen (Al-Monitor)
  • 10 FEB: “Interactive: Refugees’ Bags and Belongings” – Preethi Nallu (Refugees Deeply)
  • 10 FEB: “Who really paid up to help Syria?” – Sean Coughlan (BBC)
  • 10 FEB: “Syria war seethes despite cease-fire” – Philip Issa (AP)