TSI Syria Updates: March 20, 2017

Takeaway

On Sunday Israel reportedly launched a cross border airstrike at a vehicle traveling in southern Syria, which would be the third separate Israeli airstrikes into Syrian territory over the past four days. The escalation has led to serious tensions between the Syrian and Israeli governments as both sides have threatened the other, including a Syrian attempt to shoot down Israeli jets. Over the weekend the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Moscow to discuss the attacks, the first such summons since the start of the conflict.

Military

  • 18 MAR: An estimated 1,400 people were forcibly transferred from the al-Waer neighborhood of Homs on Saturday to Jarablos in northern Aleppo. The deportees included approximately 1,056 civilians and 344 fighters. This is the first transfer in a series to come, which were agreed upon when the neighborhood capitulated to a forcible surrender deal negotiated by Russia a week ago. (Middle East Eye, Reuters, @SiegeWatch, TSI Syria Update)
  • 19 MAR: Yesterday armed opposition groups (AOGs) launched an offensive from Jobar to break the siege around Qaboun and Barzeh neighborhoods of Damascus. The attacks in Jobar started with two car bombings and several suicide attacks. Reports are unclear, but it appears that AOGs may have at least temporarily broken through to Qaboun, connecting it to Jobar for the first time in years. Following the surprise opposition attack, pro-government forces responded with incredibly intense airstrikes and shelling against many nearby Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods today and yesterday. Unconfirmed reports suggest that as many as 200 airstrikes have been launched this far, many of them by Russian jets.  (Al-Jazeera, Step NewsAR, Al-Jazeera, VOA, AP, @SiegeWatch, Step News Map, @south_front_sy, @ahrar_alsham_en,)
  • 20 MAR: On Sunday, the Kurdish YPG said it agreed to allow Russia to set-up a military base in Afrin in order to train members of the YPG. The Russian Ministry of Defense refuted the establishment of a new base, but confirmed that Russian troops would deploy near the YPG in the Afrin area. (Reuters, Russian Defense Ministry, all4syria-AR)
  • 20 MAR: Over the past four days. Israel conducted three separate airstrikes in Syria, most recently on Sunday. The Israeli government claimed the strikes targeted convoys delivering weapons to Hezbollah. At least one anti-aircraft missile was fired on the planes from Syrian territory, though it was intercepted by Israel’s anti-ballistic missile system. Israel’s Defense minister reportedly threatened that “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation.” The Russian Foreign Ministry requested a meeting with the Israeli ambassador to discuss the strikes. (Jerusalem Post, AP, Middle East Eye, Reuters, EA Worldview, LA Times)

Political

  • 20 MAR: Russian officials confirmed that the Syrian government will participate in the next set of Geneva peace negotiations to be held on March 23. (Reuters)
  • 20 MAR: The European Union announced it is sanctioning four Syrian military officials who are believed to be involved in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population. (AP, European Council)
  • 20 MAR: The Pentagon announced today that it is investigating the possibility of multiple civilian casualties resulting from a strike conducted in Western Aleppo on March 16. (AFP)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 17 MAR: “Why the U.S. Should Team Up with the Kurds & Not Turkey to Take Raqqa and Destroy the Islamic State” – Joshua Landis (Syria Comment)
  • 17 MAR: “Analysis: Politics of Class and Identity Dividing Aleppo – and Syria” – Preethi Nallu (Syria Deeply)
  • 17 MAR: “A Very Long and Nasty Fight” – Aaron Stein (The Cipher)
  • 20 MAR: ”Six Years of War: Is Assad Still Relevant?” – Fred Hof (The Atlantic Council)
  • 20 MAR: “How Chlorine Gas Became a Weapon in Syria’s Civil War” – Dorian Geiger (Al Jazeera)