TSI Syria Updates: April 5, 2017

Takeaway

World leaders widely condemned the deadly chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib yesterday and the UN Security Council held an emergency session this morning. The US, the UK, and France presented a draft Resolution demanding information from the Syrian government and an immediate OPCW investigation but Russia has threatened to veto. US Ambassador Nikki Haley hinted the US may take some sort of unilateral action, saying “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action. Later, US President Donald Trump condemned the attack and blamed the Syrian government. He said the attack “crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal — people were shocked to hear what gas it was — that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.” He added that his attitude toward Assad has changed following the incident.

Military

  • 5 APR: Three of the victims of the gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun yesterday were sent to Turkey for treatment but did not survive. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak ordered an autopsy on one of the bodies. He requested the World Health Organization (WHO) or another international organization to be present during the procedure. (Hurriyet)
  • 5 APR: The Islamic State (ISIS) led an attack against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near the Tabaqa airbase in Raqqa. This attack allegedly let ISIS take control of the airbase. (Qasioun, Enab Baladi-AR) (Analyst note: The SDF took control of the base only a few weeks ago in a surprise attack launched with heavy US aerial and ground support)
  • 5 APR: Pro-government forces intensified attacks on Eastern Ghouta today and Jaysh al Islam announced that it was repelling ground advances near Hosh al-Dawahra and al-Rihan in the rural eastern side of the enclave. Pro-government forces and armed opposition clashed in the Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus as well amidst heavy pro-government bombardment. (Enab BaladiAR, Smart News-AR)
  • 4 APR: An ISIS militant reportedly targeted the village of Jazrat Albu Hameed in Deir ez-Zor province with a car bomb yesterday. The area is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The attack killed at least 16 civilians and wounded dozens. (Shaam-AR)

Political

  • 5 APR: The UN Security Council held an emergency session this morning, during which the statements focused on the deadly chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun. US Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke strongly against the Syrian government’s allies Russia and Iran, alleging that they showed no interest in peace. She also hinted that the US may take some sort of unilateral action, saying “When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.” Russia denied the attack, claiming the deaths and injuries were caused when Syrian planes bombed an opposition warehouse containing chemical weapons. The US, France, and the UK proposed a UN resolution condemning the attack and calling for immediate OPCW access for an investigation, but Russia said it would block the vote. Russia has submitted its own competing draft Resolution.  (WebTV, Reuters, Reuters, NY Times, Tass) (Analyst note: Russia frequently submits competing resolutions of its own to counterbalance against UK, US, and French resolutions on Syria.)
  • 5 APR: Today US President Donald Trump condemned the attack, saying it was a “terrible affront to humanity” and that it is his “responsibility” to respond to it. He said the attack “crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line.  Many, many lines.” He added that his attitude toward Assad and the Syrian government has changed as a result. (CNN, The Guardian, White House)
  • 5 APR: The World Health Organization stated today that victims of a suspected chemical attack in Syria appeared to show symptoms consistent with reaction to a nerve agent. While the Turkish Minister of Health claimed today that Turkey’s findings indicate the attack in Khan Sheikhoun was a chemical attack. (Reuters, Reuters, WHO)
  • 5 APR: The State Department announced today that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Moscow next week to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 12 April. Their discussions will reportedly include fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) and ending the conflict in Syria. (State Department, Russian Foreign Ministry)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 4 APR: “A Joint Statement by the Syria Civil Defense and the Health Directorate of Idlib” (@SyriaCivilDef)
  • 4 APR: “How to Defuse the Child Refugee Time Bomb Lit in Syria” – Rime Allaf (Middle East Eye)
  • 4 APR: “US, UK, France Draft Resolution on Chemical Attack in Idlib, Syria” – UN (UN)
  • 5 APR: “The Chemical Realities of Russia’s Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Warehouse Attack Claims” – Dan Kaszeta (Bellingcat)
  • 5 APR: “The Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack, The Evidence So Far” (Bellingcat)
  • 5 APR: “No Guns, No Justice: The Geopolitics of Law and the Culture of Impunity in the Levant” – Anthony Elghossain (Atlantic Council)
  • 5 APR: “Security Council: The situation in the Middle East (Syria/Chemical Weapons) (7915th meeting)” (WebTV)
  • 5 APR: “Syria: Khan Sheikhoun victims have symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical substances” (MSF)
  • 5 APR: “Analyzing the Russian Ministry of Defense’s explanations over Syria chemical attack allegations” (Conflict Intelligence Team – FB)