TSI Syria Updates: March 14, 2017

Takeaway

Armed groups in the Syrian opposition boycotted the newest round of Russian-sponsored peace talks scheduled for 14-15 March in Astana, Kazakhstan. The opposition argued that Russia and the Syrian government failed to uphold a nationwide ceasefire declared by Russia and Turkey in late December and have continued to launch airstrikes, forced surrenders, population displacements, and refused to release prisoners. The attendees – mainly the Syrian government and its backers – continued with bilateral technical meetings amongst themselves and the UN delegation.

Military

  • 13 MAR: On Monday Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey-backed forces captured areas around Sajur Lake north of Manbij city.  (Jarabulus Military Council, Reuters, @metesohtaoglu, @AhrarAl_Sham)
  • 13 MAR: Russian troops were reportedly seen in the region of Arima, near the city of Manbij, with light weapons and armored vehicles. The Manbij Military Council gave control of the region to the Syrian government last week to prevent Turkey-backed forces from advancing towards Manbij city. (Smart News-AR, TSI Syria Update)
  • 14 MAR: A bomb detonated on a bus in the Wadi al-Dhahab neighborhood of Homs city killed one and injured an additional two people on Tuesday. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far. (Reuters, @Step_Agency)

Political

  • 14 MAR: The third round of Russian-sponsored Syrian peace negotiations was supposed to begin today in Astana, Kazakhstan. Representatives from Turkey, Iran, Russia, the US, and Syrian government are in attendance, although Syrian armed opposition groups did not attend. Mohammed Alloush, a lead negotiator for the armed opposition, said that they were boycotting the talks because of continued airstrikes, forced surrenders, population displacements, refusal to release prisoners, and unfulfilled promises made by the Syrian government along with Russia. The Syrian government blamed Turkey for the opposition boycott. A new round of UN-sponsored talks is expected to begin in Geneva on 23 March. (Step News-AR, Reuters, all4syria-AR, Al-Jazeera, Orient-EN)
  • 14 MAR: The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry of the Human Rights Council released a report on Tuesday documenting human rights abuses in Syria in the latter half of 2016. Notably, the report determined that the Syrian Air Force intentionally bombed a major spring in Wadi Barada, which supplies the Damascus area with fresh water. The bombing contaminated the water supply, leaving over 5.5 million people without access to the spring for over a month. The report also documented the Syrian government’s use of chlorine munitions in multiple incidents, as well as deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure including schools and hospitals. The report concluded that these actions all amount to war crimes.  (Reuters, UNHRC)

Humanitarian

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 12 MAR: “The US Troop Presence in Syria Is at Its Highest Ever. But How Long Are They on the Ground and Why?” – Jared Malsin (Time)
  • 13 MAR: “Analysis: De Facto Safe Zones Already Exist Along Syria’s Borders” – Lorenzo Trombetta (News Deeply)
  • 13 MAR: “‘They’re not letting us leave:’ Residents in east Damascus suburb as government renews military offensive” – Alaa Nassar, Ruwaida Jamal, and Jessica Page (Syria Direct)
  • 14 MAR: “Human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations in the Syrian Arab Republic, 21 July 2016 – 28 February 2017” (UN HRC)
  • 14 MAR: “Access Denied: UN Aid Deliveries to Syria’s Besieged and Hard-to-Reach Areas” – (Physicians for Human Rights)
  • 14 MAR: “Fateful Triangle” – Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie)
  • 14 MAR: “The ‘slow-motion’ slaughter of Syrian civilians” – Megan O’Toole (Al-Jazeera)
  • 14 MAR: “Syria Worst Man-Made Disaster Since WW II” – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (UNOG)
  • 14 MAR: “Human Rights Council Holds a High-Level Panel Discussion on Enforced Disappearances and Arbitrary Detention in Syria” UN HRC (UNOG)
  • 14 MAR: Op-Ed “At Geneva, Syria’s Future Put on Hold Yet Again” – Hind Kabawat (Huffington Post)