TSI Syria Updates: March 13, 2017

Takeaway

Today the besieged neighborhood of al-Waer agreed to the terms of a forcible surrender deal with the Syrian government. The deal signed today will forcibly transfer approximately 20,000 people to Idlib, northern Homs countryside (which is still under siege), or Jarablus, near the Turkish border. Those who remain must agree to live under Syrian government control. The deal promises that the siege imposed on the city will be lifted, and that Russian forces will monitor the implementation. This agreement comes after weeks of intense bombing of the neighborhood.

Military

  • 12 MAR: Two suicide bombers killed more than 40 people and wounded at least an additional 100 in the center of Damascus city near the Bab al-Saghir cemetery on Saturday. The victims were reportedly mostly Iraqis visiting a local Shia shrine. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) claimed responsibility for the bombings, stating that they were targeting members of a Shia militia in the area. (France 24, Daily Star, @TahrirSy)
  • 13 MAR: A Russian-brokered surrender deal for the besieged al-Waer neighborhood of Homs was signed today. The deal includes the forced transfer of approximately 20,000 people out of the neighborhood in weekly batches of around 1,500. Approximately ⅓ of each transferred group will consist of fighters and the rest will be civilians. The deportees will be taken to either Idlib, northern Homs countryside (which is still under siege), or Jarablus, near the Turkish border. Those who wish to remain in the city are required to live under Syrian government control. In exchange for the transfers, the siege imposed on the neighborhood by the Syrian government is supposed to be lifted and Russian forces will reporedly be sent in to monitor the implementation. (Orient News, Reuters, AP, @SiegeWatch, @SiegeWatch) (Analyst note: This agreement comes after a major increase in attacks by pro-government forces caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the neighborhood.)
  • 13 MAR: Syrian government forces captured portions of a major road between Qaboun, Tishreen, and Barzeh near Damascus over the weekend, severing connections between the neighborhoods. (Reuters) (Analyst note: These neighborhoods had previously been relatively calm for years under a ceasefire agreement with the government. In a current escalation, pro-government forces have broken the ceasefire agreement in an effort to force a surrender, and deprive nearby eastern Ghouta of smuggling routes. As in numerous other recent scenarios, the government will likely try to impose a forced transfer deal.)

Political

  • 11 MAR: The US State Department repotedly added Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations on Friday. A statement released by HTS rejected the designation, claiming it undermines the spirit of the Syrian revolution. (@USEmbassySyria, @morakibh2)
  • 12 MAR: Yahya al-Aridi, spokesperson for the armed opposition groups participating in international peace negotiations, announced that they will not be attending the upcoming peace negotiations to be held on March 14-15 in  Astana, Kazakhstan, due to ceasefire violations they blame on the Syrian government. It is not yet known if any members of the Syrian armed opposition will attend the talks. (Reuters, Smart News-AR, @GebeilyM, @oabozayd)
  • 13 MAR: An Iranian government spokesperson reportedly announced on Sunday that members of the  ‘Fatimiyyoun Brigade’ and ‘Zaynabiyyoun Brigade’, an Afghan and Pakistani Shia militia operating in Syria, would be granted Iranian citizenship (ElaphAR, Anadolu News Agency)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 9 MAR: “The Manbij Saga: An End-Game in Syria?” – Aaron Stein (Atlantic Council)
  • 10 MAR: “Backed by US troops, SDF confident can capture US capitol” – Bassem Mroue (AP)
  • 13 MAR: “One big reason that Syria’s future looks bleak: Education has been a victim of war” – Ann M. Simmons (LA Times)
  • 13 MAR: “Hitting Rock Bottom: How 2016 became the worst year for Syria’s children” – UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • 13 MAR: “What’s the magic word? Humanitarian access and local organisations in Syria” – Eva Svoboda and Saleem Haddad (ODI)
  • 13 MAR: “Humanitarian Response Plan January-December 2017: Syrian Arab Republic” – UN OCHA (OCHA)