TSI Syria Updates: March 23, 2017

Takeaway

Major fighting in Jobar, Damascus and the Hama countryside continued today, after armed opposition groups (AOGs) launched sudden attacks within the past week. There are reports that pro-government reinforcements are being brought to both battlese to push back against AOG gains.

Military

  • 23 MAR: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) continued to make advances against pro-government forces near Hama on Thursday. AOGs reportedly gained control of parts of al-Suqaylabiyah, Muhardah, Shayzir, and the villages of Iskandariyah, and Kawkab. Pro-government media sources are reporting that the ‘Tiger Force’ pro-government militia is being called in for reinforcement. (Reuters, Elaph-AR, Step News-AR, Step News-AR, Qasioun Map, Al-Masdar)
  • 23 MAR: Pro-government forces reportedly surrounded the city of Deir Hafer, which is currently held by the Islamic State (ISIS). (AP) (Analyst Note: Deir Hafer is one of the last ISIS-held cities in northern Aleppo governorate.)
  • 23 MAR: Intense fighting between pro-government forces and armed opposition groups (AOGs) continued around the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. Pro-government forces reportedly prevented civilians near Abbasiyyeen Square and Fares al-Khouri Street from leaving their homes for any reason. There are also reports that the Iraqi ‘Hezbollah al-Nujaba’ Shia militia has joined the battle to support the government forces. (Step News-AR, Step News-AR, Damascus Capital Voice-AR, @iAssil)
  • 23 MAR: Pro-government Hezbollah forces targeted Madaya and Boukein today. The attack killed three people and injured at least three more. (Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 22 MAR: Turkey summoned the Russian chargé d’affaires to review the monitoring of ceasefire agreements after a Turkish soldier was killed inside of Turkish territory on Wednesday. The Turkish government may have also sought more information about the recent Russian deployment of troops to Afrin, which is currently held by members of the Kurdish YPG. (Hurriyet Daily News) (Analyst Note: The deployment of Russian troops to YPG-controlled areas throughout Aleppo will likely damage their relationship with Turkey, who views the YPG as a terrorist organization.)
  • 23 MAR: UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura noted that all representatives invited to the Geneva peace negotiations arrived in Geneva on Thursday. UN Deputy Special Envoy Ramzy Ramzy began informal consultations with the invitees today. De Mistura will arrive late Thursday in order to begin formal consultations on Friday. (UNOG, AP, Al-Jazeera-AR)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 MAR: “Trump’s ISIS Plan, as Described by Tillerson, Sounds Like Obama’s” – Gardiner Harris (NY Times)
  • 22 MAR: “Counter-terrorism Pitfalls: What the US Fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Should Avoid” (International Crisis Group)
  • 22 MAR: “Letter from Madaya, Syria, Under Siege by the Assad Regime for Nearly 2 Years” – Houssam Muhammad Mahmoud (The Nation)
  • 23 MAR: “John McCain warns of ‘tough decisions’ on Syrian Kurds” (Al-Jazeera)
  • 23 MAR: “Al Qaeda in Syria Can Change Its Name, But Not Its Stripes” – Colin Clarke (The Cipher Brief)
  • 23 MAR: “The voices missing from Syria’s peace talks” – Zena Tahhan (Al-Jazeera)
  • 23 MAR: “Statement by the UN Special Envoy for Syria on the fifth round of intra-Syrian talks” (UNOG)