TSI Syria Updates: February 27, 2017

Takeaway

Both pro-government forces and the US-backed SDF dominated by the Kurds made new advances against ISIS over the weekend in northern Syria. The territorial gains to the east of al-Bab effectively cutting Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces taking part in the Euphrates Shield operation from the frontline and preventing them from making further advances against ISIS. (Map via Kyle Orton)

Meanwhile there has been little progress reported in Geneva, where opposing sides are currently meeting for UN-led peace talks.

Military

  • 25 FEB: Two deadly attack in Homs killed 32 people including the head of the General Hassan Daeboul, the Military Intelligence services of the region. Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), known for its links to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Staffan de Mistura believes the attacks were a deliberate attempt to derail the Geneva talks. (CBS News, Al-Jazeera)
  • 26 FEB: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the Syrian government launched airstrikes on several cities such as Homs and Damascus on Sunday. Simultaneously, the Syrian government made advances in Aleppo province. (Al-Jazeera, AFP)
  • 27 FEB: On Monday morning, with help from the Russians, the Syrian government bombed residential areas of near Idlib which lead to the death of 13 civilians and extreme material destruction. (Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 27 FEB: Syrian opposition groups backed by Turkey reportedly clashed with pro-government forces in northern Syria near al-Bab which the Turkey-backed groups recently reclaimed from the Islamic State (ISIS). Both the SDF and pro-government forces made territorial gains to the east of al-Bab on Sunday, effectively cutting off the Turkey-backed fighters from the front lines with ISIS. The Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) captured the town of Bizzah yesterday, while the Syrian Army captured Tadef and Jub al-Khafi. (Reuters, @KyleWOrton, @CivilWarMap) (Analyst note: The capture of these areas means that the Turkish and FSA soldiers participating in Operation Euphrates Shield would now have to capture territory from the SDF or Syrian Army in order to continue to pursue ISIS.)
  • 27 FEB: A United States drone strike killed Abu al-Khayr al-Masri near Idlib on Saturday, who was the second-most senior al-Qaeda figure in the world, behind only current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. (The Guardian, Telegraph, @Charles_Lister) (Analyst Note: the death of al-Masri is the most high-profile of any Al-Qaeda member in Syria to date)

Political

  • 25 FEB: On Tuesday this week, the UN Security Council will vote for a resolution that would sanction the Syrian government for using chemical weapons. Russia is allegedly going to veto the resolution. (What’s In Blue, EA Worldview, AFP)
  • 27 FEB: During the Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva conducted over the weekend, a suicide bombing in the city of Homs which killed at least 30 Syrian government soldiers on Saturday was the primary topic of discussion. The Syrian government requested that the Syrian opposition label this event an act of terrorism, while the opposition questioned whether the attack was facilitated by the government in order to undermine negotiations. (Al Jazeera, VOA News)
  • 27 FEB: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said that Russia hopes that the separate opposition platforms will  merge into a single unified body, and also requested that more representation from Kurdish groups in Syria was needed during future negotiations. This same sentiment was echoed by the Cairo and Moscow platforms – both of which are supported by Russia and neither of which are recognized as the primary opposition negotiating body at Geneva.  Representatives from the Syrian opposition also requested a direct meeting with their Russian counterparts in Geneva, over concerns that the Syrian government is not committed to honoring previously agreed upon ceasefire deals. (Ruptly – YouTube, Reuters, Al Hayat-AR)
  • 27 FEB: The Pentagon reportedly delivered a draft plan for defeating ISIS to the White House today. According to a Defense Department spokesman the plan would define what it meant to defeat ISIS and took a global view, beyond just Syria and Iraq. (DoD, CNBC)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 24 FEB: “A Doctor Created a New Term to Describe the Pain Syrian Children are Experiencing” – Charles Davis (Attn)
  • 25 FEB: “Deadly Insurgent Attack in Homs Weights on UN-led Syria Talks” – Jamey Keaten and Dominique Soguel (The Washington Post)
  • 26 FEB: White Helmets Movie Wins an Oscar – (CNN)
  • 26 FEB: “Do talks on Syria Serve Any Purpose?” – Al-Jazeera (Al-Jazeera)
  • 27 FEB: “Putin in Syria, 2017” – Ammar Abdulhamid (LawFare Blog)