TSI Syria Update: April 19, 2017

Takeaway

Today during a meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü told Council members that the results of analyses conducted so far by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) investigating the deadly 4 April chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib “indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin like substance.” He said that the FFM continues to gather evidence but “the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible.” Meanwhile, Western governments continue their own investigations into the attack. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said today that within a few days his government would present proof that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack. According to the AP, an Israeli defense official has stated that they believe Assad still has between one – three tons of chemical weapons.

Military

  • 19 APR: The “Four Towns” population transfers resumed after a two day delay after the deadly car bomb attack on an exchange point in Aleppo. Today an estimated 200 people began to move from Zabadani city in Rural Damascus towards northern Syria. The convoy also reportedly included some people from Madaya and some displaced from nearby areas such as Wadi Barada. The transfer came after displacing 3,000 civilians from Madaya to Idlib. (Qasioun, VOA News, @syrianpc-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • 19 APR: An explosion in Salah al-Din neighborhood in Aleppo injured 32 and killed six. According to pro-opposition media, the attack targeted the funeral of a member of the Syrian National Defense Forces. The Syrian government recaptured the city from the opposition in December 2016. (Elaph-AR, All4syria-AR).
  • 19 APR: Armed opposition group tweeted pictures of the progress in al-Manshiya area in the city of Daraa and targeting government forces and destroying a tank and missile launcher. It was also reported that pro-government warplanes and artillery targeted Daraa al-Balad and clashes were concentrated in Sajnah neighbourhood. (@Marsos10-AR, Qasoiun-AR, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 19 APR: The fifth convoy of people that left al-Waer on Monday as part of the surrender deal finally arrived to their destination in Jarablus on Tuesday evening. (All4syria-AR)
  • 19 APR: According to CNN, unnamed US intelligence officials believe that the Syrian Air Force has relocated most, if not all, of its remaining aircraft to the Basel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia since the US missile strikes destroyed approximately 24 Syrian planes on 6 April. Al-Assad airport is co-located with Russia’s Khmeimeem Airbase, which would likely protect the planes from being targeted in a future US attack. (CNN)

Political

  • 19 APR: A Reuters investigation has found that, based on interviews with relatives and friends of killed servicemen, the actual number of Russian forces killed in Palmyra earlier this year is four times higher than the number reported by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD). Reuters claimed that the real number is 21 while Russia reported only five. In response to Reuters’ report, The Russian MOD has issued a statement denying the report, calling it “a mendacious compilation of rumors collected in haste in order to distract attention from a sham play with an alleged air chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun.” (Reuters, Russian ministry of defence Facebook page).
  • 19 APR: OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü confirmed today that the results of autopsies studied by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) investigating the 4 April chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun confirm that “sarin or a sarin-like substance” was used, calling the results “incontrovertible.” The FFM will continue to collect and analyze evidence and is expected to submit an initial report of its investigation within two weeks. (OPCW)
  • 19 APR: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told a French television network that the French intelligence agency will provide proof in few days that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the attack on Khan Shaykhun Idlib. (Reuters)
  • 19 APR: According to the AP, an Israeli defense official stated that the Syrian government still has up to three tons of chemical weapons. The statement was confirmed by two other defense officials. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to deny responsibility for the 4 April chemical weapons attack. (AP)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 28 MAR: “Local Wars and the Chance for Decentralized Peace in Syria” – Kheder Khaddour (Carnegie)
  • 10 APR: “Russia Needs American Help to Seal the Deal in Syria” – Dmitri Trenin (Carnegie)
  • 18 APR: “Tech is Dominating Efforts to Educate Syrian Refugees” – Anya Kamenetz (NPR)
  • 19 APR: “Trump’s Syria Strike Clearly Broke International Law – And no One Seems to Care” – Julian Ku (Vox)
  • 19 APR: “OPCW Director-General Shares Incontrovertible Laboratory Results Concluding Exposure to Sarin” (OPCW)