TSI Syria Updates: April 4, 2017

Takeaway

A suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province reportedly killed more than 50 people, although some reports put the estimates even higher. Several hours later, the nearby field hospital treating victims was reportedly targeted in an airstrike.

Military

  • 3 APR: Yesterday, for the first time, the Islamic State (ISIS) released pictures of using drones to bomb Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) ferries loaded with fighters and weapons as they crossed the Euphrates River in the attempt to retake Raqqa from ISIS. (all4syria-AR, Al-Masdar)
  • 4 APR: A suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province reportedly killed more than 50 people, although some reports put the estimates even higher. Several hours later, the nearby field hospital treating victims was reportedly targeted in an airstrike. (AP, Reuters, Elaph-AR, Shaam-AR, AP, YouTube video list by Eliot Higgins) (Analyst note: If confirmed, this would be the most deadly chemical attack since August 2013. The high death toll suggests a nerve agent instead of chlorine. This comes two days after suspected Russian aircraft targeted the largest hospital in the area in Maaret al-Numan, taking it out of service. It was the main hospital in the area and the only one with capacity to treat many of the chemical attack victims.)
  • 4 APR: Shortly after the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Russian or Syrian warplanes reportedly targeted al-Rawda mosque and civilians houses in the town of Salqeen in northern Idlib, in addition to several building in nearby town of Jisr al-Shugour. The strikes on both towns resulted 30 civilians killed among them children and dozens of others injured. (all4syria-AR)
  • 4 APR: Intensive attacks against neighborhoods of Eastern Ghouta continued today. Pro-government forces reportedly conducted over 100 airstrikes against Eastern Ghouta in the past 24 hours. The attacks targeted Douma, Zamalka and Arbin, killing over 20 and injuring over 150. Local administrators decided to close schools for the week due to the onslaught. (Syria Direct, Enab Baladi-AR, @SiegeWatch)
  • 4 APR: Implementation of the “Four Towns” (Fuah, Kefraya, Zabadani, and Madaya) population transfer agreement was delayed today. Local reports indicate it remains unclear whether the forced evacuation will occur. (Alaraby)

Political

  • 3 APR: Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser and US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, traveled to Iraq on Monday with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford to be briefed on the counter-ISIS offensive and meet with Iraqi leaders in Trump’s stead. (CNN, Hurriyet)
  • 4 APR: Today the EU’s two-day “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” conference started in Brussels. The opening statements and side events were largely overshadowed by news of the chemical attack in Idlib. Special Envoy De Mistura and UN Foreign Affairs Chief Mogherini gave a joint statement addressing the breaking news. (EU, Ruptly-YouTube, @FedericaMogherini)
  • 4 APR: Today UN ambassadors from France and the UK called for an emergency UN Security Council session following the deadly chemical attack in Idlib. The UNSC will meet on Wednesday for a briefing on the chemical attack. (Reuters, @franceonu)
  • 4 APR: Turkish President Recep Erdogan called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the chemical attack on Idlib and warn that it might affect the Geneva and Astana peace talks. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the chemical attack as well. (Hurriyet, Enab Baladi-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, Elaph-AR)
  • 4 APR: A statement from the Syrian army denied that it has ever used chemical weapons, particularly not in Khan Sheikhoun. The Russian Ministry of Defense “strongly refuted” the claim that Russia was involved in the chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun this morning. (Sana, Reuters, Russian Defense Ministry, Sputnik)
  • 4 APR: The White House blamed the Syrian government for the Idlib chemical attack. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the US is confident sarin gas was used in the attack. The State Department condemned the attack, and urged Russia and Iran to influence the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons. (White House, State Department, @Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 3 APR: “Who Will Retake Raqqa?” – Jamie Dettmer (VOA)
  • 3 APR: “Weaponization of Healthcare In Syria ‘Unprecedented’: AUB Researcher” – Alessandria Masi (News Deeply)
  • 3 APR: “Voices of the Truth: Journalists of Eastern Ghouta” – Youssef Sadaki (Carnegie)
  • 4 APR: Joint press statement by EU’s Federica Mogherini and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura at Brussels conference (Ruptly-YouTube)
  • 4 APR: “Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 4/4/2017” (White House)
  • 4 APR: “UN Syria Commission Condemns Khan Shikhoun Attack” (UNOG)
  • 4 APR: “Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria Rex Tillerson Press Statement” (US State Department)