TSI Syria Updates: March 7, 2017

Takeaway

Russia has unilaterally declared a temporary ceasefire in besieged Eastern Ghouta, reportedly to last from March 6th to March 20th. Regardless, the Syrian government and its allies launched a heavy wave of attacks against Eastern Ghouta towns yesterday, and these attacks continued into today. There has been no formal statement from the Syrian government, and TSI’s Siege Watch contacts report that the ceasefire was not negotiated by any local actors.

Military

  • 5 MAR: Over the weekend, Russian airstrikes in Kafranbel, southern Idlib countryside, killed six civilians and wounded 19 others. (Syrian Observer, Smart NewsAR)
  • 7 MAR: Pro-government forces reportedly clashed with opposition groups near Zahraa in western Aleppo on Monday. (Aleppo AMC Facebook)
  • 7 MAR: A hospital in the city of Kafr Zita reportedly suspended services after being targeted by several pro-government airstrikes on Tuesday, which wounded a number of civilians. The neighboring city of Al-Lataminah was also targeted with airstrikes. (Step News-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 7 MAR: Pro-government forces targeted cities in Eastern Ghouta today with shelling and airstrikes. Attacks in Harasta killed at least one civilian and injured an unknown number of others. Airstrikes against Autaya targeted the town’s school. Arbin, Douma, Qaboun, and Barzeh were among the other areas hit. The Russian Defense Ministry appears to have unilaterally declared the start of ceasefire started last night in Eastern Ghouta and would last until March 20th. A Syrian government source reportedly claimed there was no information about a ceasefire deal in Eastern Ghouta. (Smart News-AR, Smart News-AR, @AFP, ElaphAR, Russian MOD) [Analyst note: As there does not appear to have been any buy-in from local actors of even the Syrian government, this announcement is likely a strategy by Russia to get positive news headlines and create external pressure for the parties to agree.]
  • 7 MAR: Confrontations between the armed opposition groups Ahrar al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly associated with al-Qaeda) continued today in Idlib province. Both groups released documents accusing the other of instigating recent clashes. HTS reportedly attacked Ahrar al-Sham’s facilities. In al-Mastoumeh, one of the towns where HTS and Ahrar al-Sham clashed, women demonstrated for HTS to leave. (Orient News-AR, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 7 MAR: US General Joseph Dunford met with his counterparts Russian General Gerasimov and Turkish General Akar in Antalya Turkey today to discuss coordination of operations in Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed the three countries would coordinate fighting terrorist groups. This is the second time in a month that the Russian and US militaries on this level. (Telegraph, AP, Reuters@thejointstaff, Hurriyet-TR)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 6 MAR: “The Reality of Economic Reconstruction in Syria” – Rashad Al-Kattan (Atlantic Council)
  • 6 MAR: “Invisible Wounds: Syria’s Child Mental Health Crisis” – Save the Children (Save the Children)
  • 7 MAR: “No End In Sight For Syrian Refugees Banned Under Trump’s New Travel Order” – Layla Saleh (The Conversation)