TSI Syria Updates: March 15, 2017

Takeaway

A twin suicide bombing targeted Damascus city today, the second such event in Damascus in less than a week. Today’s bombs targeted the Palace of Justice and the al-Rabwah neighborhood, killing more than 30 people and injuring dozens more. The first set of bombs targeted the Bab al-Saghir cemetery on Saturday. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks, but has reportedly denied responsibility for today’s attacks.

Military

  • 15 MAR: Two suicide bombings killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more in central Damascus on Wednesday morning. The bombings took place in the Palace of Justice and al-Rabwah neighborhood. (Reuters, AP) (Analyst Note: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is suspected of having carried out the attacks, but has reportedly denied responsibility, saying that it only attacks security and military targets.)
  • 15 MAR: Pro-government forces continued an assault on the Barzeh Orchards area of Damascus on Wednesday, as they attempt to separate the neighborhoods of Qaboun and Tishreen, besieging the areas from all sides.  (Step News-AR, @FSAPlatform)
  • 15 MAR: Suspected Russian air strikes killed at least 14 people in Idlib city this morning. (Shaam News-AR, @AFP, @AleppoAMC)

Political

  • 14 MAR: After capturing the al-Khafsa water pumping station from the Islamic State last week, the Syrian government will soon be resupplying areas around Aleppo with water from the station this morning.  (Reuters) (Analyst Note: Residents of Aleppo had previously been obtaining water from ground wells).
  • 15 MAR: Syrian peace negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan continued in its second day today, though representatives from armed opposition groups were still not in attendance. Due to the lack of representation from all parties, the talks may be extended through the weekend to allow more time for opposition parties to send a delegation. The only outcome of today’s meeting was a document outlining demining operations to be performed in the city of Palmyra, which was recently captured from the Islamic State by Syrian and Russian forces. Another addition to the current set of Astana talks was also announced, scheduled to be held from May 3-4.  (Step News-AR, AP, Reuters, Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News, Al-Jazeera-AR)
  • 15 MAR: Reports indicate that the Kurdish PYD is outlawing all “unlicensed” parties in the self-administered Rojava region in an effort to clamp down on Kurdish political adversaries. Starting on Tuesday evening, the PYD began shutting down offices of the Kurdish National Council (KNC or ENKS), the Kurdish Union (Yekîtî) Party, and other groups. The KNC office in Kobanî was reportedly vandalized and several other KNC offices were targeted with grenades. This follows the detention of an estimated 62 KNC members by the PYD in the past few weeks. (Enab Baladi-AR, @RudawEnglish, Etilaf) (Analyst note: The PYD is the political wing of the YPG fighting force, which forms the core of the US-backed “Syrian Democratic Forces.”)
  • 15 MAR: Today marks the 5th anniversary of the first protests that took place in Syria, during what was termed the “day of rage” in 2011.

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 11 MAR: “Armour in the Islamic State, the DIY works of Wilayat al-Khayr” (Oryx Blog)
  • 14 MAR: “Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: Elements for an EU Strategy for Syria” (European Commission Report, EC Press Release)
  • 14 MAR: “Hizbollah’s Syria Conundrum” (International Crisis Group)
  • 14 MAR: “Health workers and the weaponisation of health care in Syria: a preliminary inquiry for The Lancet–American University of Beirut Commission on Syria” (The Lancet)
  • 15 MAR: “Western policy Towards Syria: Applying Lessons Learned” – Lina Khatib, Tim Eaton, Haid Haid, Christopher Phillips, Neil Quilliam, Ibrahim Hamidi, Bassma Kodmani, and Lina Sinjab (Chatham House)
  • 15 MAR: Interactive site: “Syria and Its Neighbors” (Chatham House)