TSI Syria Updates: March 1, 2017

Takeaway

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (IICISy), part of the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Council (HRC), published a report on the human rights violations in Aleppo city during the latter half of 2016, documenting war crimes by all parties. Most of the report describes the litany of war  crimes committed by Syrian government forces and its allies, including Russia. Two of the most notable new findings: 1) The HRC report attributed blame for the 19 September attack on the UN aid convoy at Orum al-Kubra to the Syrian government, stating that the “attack was meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out by the Syrian air force.” 2) The report said that the forced displacement deal that accompanied the pro-government capture of Aleppo amounted to a war crime. On the other side, the report documented armed opposition groups’ indiscriminate shelling of civilians in government-controlled western Aleppo, as well as abuses against civilians in the besieged eastern area such as withholding of humanitarian aid and using civilians as human shields.

Military

  • 1 MAR: Clashes occurred between Syrian government and opposition forces in the Damascus suburbs of Qaboun, Barzeh, Harasta, and Tishreen today, allegedly resulting in the death of 13 government fighters, while airstrikes killed an unknown number of opposition fighters. A local ceasefire covering Qaboun and Barzeh has been in place 2014, but pro-government forces have violated this in recent days by launching attacks on the area.  (AFP, Step News-AR)
  • 1 MAR: Today, there were reports that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces taking part in the Euphrates Shield operation captured the village of Tall Turin near Manbij from US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), which is composed largely of Kurdish fighters. (Middle East Eye, Reuters, @CivilWarMap) (Analyst Note: This move comes after advances by government forces cut of the Euphrates Shield front line with ISIS earlier in the week, blocking them from advancing further to the southeast al-Bab.)
  • 1 MAR: According to the Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the US operations in Syria and Iraq, Russian aircraft mistakenly bombed Syrian opposition fighters who were being trained by the US for anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations near al-Bab in northern Aleppo. US troops located two miles away witnessed the attacks and called the Russians through their deconfliction channels to get them to halt the attacks. Russia has denied the report, stating “Not a single air strike on the regions specified by the US side was conducted by Russian or Syrian air forces.” (NY Times, RT)
  • 1 MAR: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 413 people died in Syria since the start of the Geneva negotiations, which began on February 20th. According to the report at least 55 ceasefire violations occurred during the negotiations, with most of them suspected of being carried out by the Syrian government and its allies. (Etilaf-AR, SOHR)

Political

  • 28 FEB: Peaceful demonstrations were held in the town of Atareb on Tuesday to protests against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a rebel coalition former al-Qaeda affiliate known as Jabhat al-Nusra. Protesters were angry at HTS for its continuing attacks against more moderate Syrian opposition factions and its harassment of civilians.  (Syria Direct)
  • 1 MAR: The Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (IICISy) published a report on the human rights violations in Aleppo city during the latter half of 2016, documenting war crimes by all parties. Most of the report describes the litany of war  crimes committed by Syrian government forces and its allies, including Russia. Two of the most notable new findings: 1) The HRC report attributed blame for the 19 September attack on the UN aid convoy at Orum al-Kubra to the Syrian government, stating that the “attack was meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out by the Syrian air force.” 2) The report said that the forced displacement deal that accompanied the pro-government capture of Aleppo amounted to a war crime. On the other side, the report documented armed opposition groups’ indiscriminate shelling of civilians in government-controlled western Aleppo, as well as abuses against civilians in the besieged eastern area such as withholding of humanitarian aid and using civilians as human shields. (OHCHR, Reuters)
  • 1 MAR: Russian news agencies reported that new round of Syria peace negotiations will be held in Astana starting on March 14. The talks will involve the Syrian opposition, Russian, Iranian, and Turkish governments. (RT-AR, Reuters) (Analyst note: These reports comes while the official UN-mediated Geneva talks are ongoing. The announcement of talks in Astana is likely a Russian effort to bring the Geneva talks to an end so that it can regain control of the agenda. So far neither the opposition’s HNC delegation or the office of UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura have mentioned Astana meeting.)
  • 1 MAR: The Geneva talks continued today, with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura meeting with both the government and opposition delegations. The opposition’s HNC delegation also met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, amidst reports that under pressure from Russia, the government may finally have agreed to discuss the issue of political transition. (Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 28 FEB: “De-conflicting Turkish, Kurdish, and American Aims in Syria” – Aaron Stein (War on The Rocks)
  • 28 FEB: “The situation in the Middle East (Syria) – Security Council, 7893rd meeting (English)” – UN Security Council vote on chemical weapons Resolution (UN WebTV)
  • 28 FEB: “The Syrian Crisis: Policy Options For The Trump Administration” – Rice University (Baker Institute)
  • 1 MAR: “Commission of Inquiry on Syria: Aleppo Report – Press Conference (Geneva, 1 March 2017) (Original)” (UN WebTV)
  • 1 MAR: Syria’s Former al-Qaeda Affiliate is Leading Rebels on a Suicide Mission – Sam Heller (The Century Foundation)
  • 1 MAR: “What ISIS Fighters Think of Trump” – Amarnath Amarasomgam (Politico)
  • 1 MAR: “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic” – United Nations A/HRC/34/64 (UN HRC)