TSI Syria Updates: March 9, 2017

Takeaway

The US  deployed additional Marines and Army Rangers to Syria this week, who are expected to participate in an operation to capture the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS). The deployment of these additional troops comes days after US deployed forces in and around Manbij city to prevent clashes between Turkey-backed and US-backed forces. This marks a notable uptick in direct American military involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Military

  • 8 MAR: Yesterday pro-government forces reportedly recaptured the al-Khafsa region (south of Manbij city) from the Islamic State (ISIS), while multiple Russian airstrikes reportedly hit the nearby town of Maskanah. The area contains the main water treatment and pumping stations that supply Aleppo city. (Reuters, Syria Direct, @Raqqa_SL, @SyrianReporters)
  • 8 MAR: The US deployed additional Marines and Army Rangers to northern Syria this week to participate in an operation to capture the city of Raqqa from ISIS. They will reportedly establish an outpost for artillery fire during the ouster. The US is also reportedly considering sending another 1,000 troops to Kuwait as a reserve force for the operation. The build-up comes despite continuing disagreements with US ally Turkey, which believes that the Kurds supported by Washington are allied with the PKK, a designated terrorist organization. (Washington Post, Reuters, AP, Reuters, Telegraph)
  • 8 MAR: Pro-government forces continued assaults against areas of Eastern Ghouta today. The attacks targeted Douma, Arbin, Qaboun, Harasta, Hamouriya, and Tishreen. The attacks caused material damages, killed a dozen people, and injured more than 30. These attacks continued in spite of Russia unilaterally announcing a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta on Tuesday. (AFP, Al-Jazeera-AR, SOHR, SOHR)
  • 8 MAR: Russian warplanes presumably targeted the Jabal al-Hoss region in Aleppo province with an onslaught of airstrikes on Tuesday and Wednesday. 63 schools were closed due to safety concerns. (Smart News-AR)
  • 8 MAR: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly associated with al-Qaeda) and Ahrar al-Sham reportedly reached an agreement to resolve and de-escalate violent disputes in Idlib province. One of the terms of the agreement was to form a court to mediate outstanding issues between the parties. (Smart News-AR)
  • 9 MAR: Today, airstrikes believed to be conducted by Russian planes targeted al-Mayadin, a town in the ISIS stronghold of Deir Ezzor province. The strikes killed seven civilians and injured 70 others. (Reuters)
  • 9 MAR: Pro-government planes conducted airstrikes against Kafr Nabl in Idlib today, killing at least five civilians and injuring 17 others. The strikes targeted a school and a mosque. (Step News-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 9 MAR: A temporary ceasefire in al-Waer reportedly started early Wednesday morning, as surrender negotiations between the local negotiating committee and the Russians continue. More details about the agreement emerged today. It is unknown how long the ceasefire will last, but the Russian negotiators agreed to keep roads open for humanitarian aid. Until yesterday, the Syrian government was not present during negotiations. (Step News-AR, Syria Direct, Al-Jazeera-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 9 MAR: On Thursday, airstrikes believed to be conducted by the US-led coalition against the village of al-Matab killed 23 civilians. Nearby, US backed-Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured Tal Minkhar from ISIS forces, reportedly with US-led coalition air support. SDF also captured other neighboring villages including al-Jazrah. (Reuters, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 7 MAR: Turkey revoked the registration of Mercy Corps, a US-based humanitarian aid organization. Mercy Corps is one of the largest providers of aid to Syrians. (Washington Post, BBC, Mercy Corps)
  • 8 MAR: On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraq has Syria’s permission to continue striking ISIS targets in Syria. The first Iraqi strikes against ISIS in Syria occurred on 23 February. (Reuters, TSI Update)
  • 8 MAR: On Tuesday, Mohammad Ali Shahidi, head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, said over 2,000 Iranian soldiers had died in Syria and Iraq. (AFP, Step News-AR)
  • 8 MAR: Two Turkish lawyers and the father of a child who lost his legs in an airstrike in Idlib filed complaints against Mehmet Sufhan, the pilot whose plane crashed in Turkey on Sunday. (Hurriyet Daily News)
  • 8 MAR: On Wednesday US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said it is important to get Iran and their proxies out of Syria. (Reuters)
  • 8 MAR: On Wednesday, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura briefed the UN Security Council on the Geneva 4 intra-Syrian peace negotiations. De Mistura said he intends to “reconvene the invitees for a 5th round with a target date of 23 March, with invitees to arrive 22 March.” (UNOG)
  • 9 MAR: Russian President Putin hosted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today, to talk about the situation in Syria. (VOA)

Humanitarian

  • 9 MAR: The Syrian Red Crescent delivered dialysis sessions, medicine, and baby milk to besieged Douma in Eastern Ghouta today. (@SYRedCrescent, Enab Baladi-AR)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 7 MAR: “The Core Reason for the JFS Fight Against Syria Rebels is Competition Over Resources” – Haid Haid (Atlantic Council)
  • 8 MAR: “Assad’s Control Erodes as Warlords Gain Upper Hands” – Fritz Schaap and Christian Werner (Der Spiegel)
  • 8 MAR: “Rebuilding Syria’s rubble as the cannons roar” – Aron Lund (IRIN)
  • 8 MAR: “Assad is a long way from victory in Syrian conflict” – David Gardner (FT)
  • 8 MAR: “Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Briefing to the Security Council on the outcomes of Geneva 4”  (UNOG-Transcript, WebTV-Video)
  • 8 MAR: “SC President, Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom) on Middle East (Syria) – Security Council Stakeout” (WebTV-Video)
  • 9 MAR: “Aleppo: Humanity Under Fire” – UN event (WebTV-Video)
  • 9 MAR: “Battle for Raqqa: ‘Difficult and complicated’” – Mariya Petkova (Al Jazeera)