TSI Syria Updates: March 22, 2017

Takeaway

Last night, the US airlifted Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) across the Euphrates river, dropping the forces off near Shurfa peninsula. An offensive to capture Tabqa started overnight with SDF ground forces being supported by Coalition airstrikes. US Central Command claims to have conducted over 300 strikes in and around Tabqa over the past four months, which is a strategically important city for launching further offenses against the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa.


Military

  • 22 MAR: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) captured the town of Souran in Hama governorate from pro-government forces on Tuesday, after a new offensive began earlier in the week. The Syrian government is reportedly sending reinforcements to the area. (Reuters, Al-Jazeera-AR, Smart News-AR, Step News-AR, @DorarShami)
  • 22 MAR: A Turkish soldier was allegedly killed inside of Turkish territory by sniper fire from Afrin on Tuesday. The attacks are believed to have been carried out by the Syrian Defense Forces, who claim they fired on the soldiers after being shelled by Turkish artillery. (Reuters, Hurriyet Daily News, Al-Jazeera-AR@CNNTURK_ENG)
  • 22 MAR: The US-led coalition reportedly denied indications of a coalition airstrike killing civilians yesterday in a rural area near Raqqa. The attack allegedly hit a school where displaced civilians had taken shelter and led to more than 30 civilian deaths. The coalition confirm it conducted airstrikes around Raqqa on Tuesday. (The New York Times, VOA, CENTCOM, raqqa-sl-AR) (Analyst note: This attack comes on the heels of a suspected coalition airstrike which killed almost 50 civilians gathered in a mosque for evening prayer. Coalition data shows that nearly 20 strikes per day have targeted the Raqqa area since Saturday. The US is thought to be responsible for most of these airstrikes.)
  • 22 MAR: The US-led coalition announced that it launched a new offensive upstream of Raqqa to capture Tabqa Dam from ISIS. The coalition conducted an airlift of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the Tabqa area today, and will provide air support, artillery, and military advice to SDF leadership. (Stratfor, AP, Reuters, CENTCOM, Step News-AR, raqqa-sl-AR, @Liveuamap)
  • 22 MAR: The Syrian government conducted airstrikes against the Arbin neighborhood of Eastern Ghouta today. The Syria Civil Defense (White Helmets) in the region reported that these attacks killed two and injured several other civilians. (Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 22 MAR: On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed representatives from 68 countries during the first day of an anti-ISIS coalition meeting held in Washington, DC. Tillerson reiterated US commitment to creating what he referred to as “interim zones of stability” in Syria by  negotiating ceasefire agreements that would allow refugees to return to their homes. He also stressed the need for mutual cooperation to combat ISIS on digital fronts, stating that the physical defeat of ISIS would not be enough to prevent its spread through online mediums. (AP, Step News-AR, Foreign Policy)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 14 MAR: “Fateful Triangle: How Does Russia Position Itself Between Iran and Israel in the Middle East?” – Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie)
  • 21 MAR: “‘Please Don’t Forget US’: The Hellish Search for Syria’s Lost Prisoners” – Nicola Cutcher (The Guardian)
  • 22 MAR: “Russia Underplayed Losses in Recapture of Syria’s Palmyra” – Maria Tsetkova (Reuters)
  • 22 MAR: “Scorched Earth: If Islamic State Can’t Have It, No One Can” – Ali Abdelaty (Reuters)
  • 22 MAR: “I, the Supreme: The Syrian Regime Devolves Some Power Over Reconstruction, Mainly to Retain it.” – Kheder Khaddour (Carnegie)