TSI Syria Updates: April 6, 2017

Takeaway

US officials said the Pentagon and the White House are holding discussions about military options against the Syrian government, as Secretary of Defense James Mattis briefs US President Donald Trump on the available options and possible consequences. US officials have also reportedly confirmed that US radar followed the signals of Syrian government aircraft and bombs at the time and place of the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack. Meanwhile, the Turkish government said that initial autopsy reports from attack victims confirmed the use of sarin, and that Turkey would support the US should it decide to take military action against the Syrian government.

Military

  • 5 APR: Reports indicated that airstrikes by an unknown party hit Izraa and Ibtaa, Daraa late Tuesday night, targeting two points for pro-government militias affiliated to Iran. The strike was not confirmed by the Syrian government sources, but local sources confirmed explosions in the location after warplanes flew over the area. (all4syria-AR, souriat-AR)
  • 6 APR: The Islamic State (ISIS) killed 33 people execution-style yesterday in the town of Mayadeen in Deir ez-Zor province. This attack is believed to be the largest execution of the year. (CNN, SOHR)
  • 6 APR: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) gained new positions in al-Manshiya area in Daraa. They reportedly now control 45 new buildings in the area including government security branches building. Pro-government forces conducted more than 12 airstrike over Daraa Al-Balad neighborhoods which allegedly killed nine civilians. (Qasioun, Alaraby-AR, Shaam-AR, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 6 APR: Today the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly gained control of the strategic town of Safsafeh, completing their encirclement of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Tabaqa city. This strategic development cuts off the last ISIS-held road between Tabaqa and the de facto ISIS capital Raqqa. (Syria Direct, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 6 APR: As a follow-up to Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey is preparing for cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that the operations will have a new name and will not be limited to Syria since they already have soldiers stationed in Mosul. (Kom News, Hurriyet)

Political

  • 6 APR: Today Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag stated that preliminary results from the Turkish autopsies indicated the victims from Khan Sheikhoun were exposed to sarin. The results will be sent to The Hague where the International Criminal Court is located. (CBC, NYT)
  • 6 APR: The Syrian government continued to deny the use of chemical weapons today. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem held a press conference today in which he affirmed that “the Syrian Arab Army has never used chemical weapons and will not use chemical weapons against Syrians and even against terrorists.” Moallem added that any international inquiry about the chemical attack should set out from Damascus and not from Turkey. (Reuters, Ruptly)
  • 6 APR: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he is convinced the Syrian government premeditated and ordered the chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun. (AFP)
  • 6 APR: The head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced the importance of showing a united front and being part of the new national initiative launched by the Syrian Arab and Kurdish activists that aims to bring together the SDF and the political opposition in Syria. (Syrian Observer)
  • 6 APR: Riyad Hijab, General Coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), asked political, military, and civil society groups to meet to discuss alternatives to peace talks in the aftermath of the chemical attack. He added that the attack on Khan Sheikhoun is evidence that is impossible to negotiate with the Syrian government because they do not respect the truce deals. (Syrian Observer, @MediaPmoffice, Syrian HNC)
  • 6 APR: US President Donald Trump reportedly told some members of Congress he is considering military action in Syria, though Trump denied speaking with Congress. US officials have reportedly confirmed that US radar followed the signals of Syrian government aircraft and bombs at the time and place of the Khan Sheikhoun attack. US officials said the Pentagon and the White House are holding discussions about military options in Syria. (CNN, White House, CNN, Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • 5 APR: $6 billion in aid for Syria for 2017 was pledged yesterday at the Brussels Conference. (EU)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 5 APR: “Russia: Syria Gas Attacks Victims Faked It” – Michael Weiss (The Daily Beast)
  • 6 APR: “Syriana: In an Interview, Charles Lister Talks About Jihadists and why Bashar al-Assad Has to Go” – Michael Young (Carnegie)
  • 6 APR: “Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to Special Envoy for Syria – Media Stakeout (Geneva, 6 April 2017)” (WebTV)
  • 6 APR: “Syria Policy After the Chemical Attacks” – Sam Heller (FP)