TSI Syria Update: April 20, 2017

Takeaway

Pro-government forces intensified their campaign to retake territory recently lost to armed opposition groups (AOGs) in northern Hama. AOGs and pro-government forces clashed in Taybat al-Imam, Helfaya, and Latamneh and heavy fighting and aerial attacks are ongoing.

Military

  • 20 APR: Pro-government forces reached a new phase in their campaign to retake territory recently lost to armed opposition groups (AOGs) in northern Hama. Pro-government media claimed that their forces gained control of Taybat al-Imam, but an opposition spokesperson denied the claim and said clashes there are continuing. Pro-government forces have also launched attacks to capture Helfaya and Latamneh, although they have made little progress so far against opposition resistance. Both towns continue to be targeted with heavy aerial bombardments. (Reuters, all4syria-AR, Masar Press-AR, Eldorar-AR, @now_damascus-AR)
  • 20 APR: There are reports that warplanes – unidentified but potentially Turkish – targeted several Kurdish YPG locations today in Bersaya Mount near Azaz north of Aleppo city. Pro-opposition media reports that an estimated ten YPG fighters were killed and several injured. (Baladi News-AR, Raqqa Post-AR, @AleppoAMCen)
  • 20 APR: Armed opposition groups reportedly captured al-Ulyaniya village area in the desert south of Palmyra from the Islamic State (ISIS). (@osoudelsharqiya_en, all4syria-AR, Qasioun-AR)
  • 20 APR: Pro-government forces targeted the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Kafr-Batna, Harasta, Jisreen, and Qaboun today with artillery and airstrikes. Pro-opposition media sources described the shelling on Qaboun as the worst in two months. (Qasioun, Jobar News-AR, Masar Press-AR, SMO-AR, @ِAlrahmanCorps-AR)
  • 20 APR: Today the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the death of a Russian officer, Major Sergei Bordov in Syria. Bordov was reportedly killed during an attack against his garrison on Tuesday. Bordov is one of the highest-ranking Russian officers that has been killed so far in Syria.  (TASS, Reuters)

Political

  • 19 APR: Yesterday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Iran of being “the world leader sponsor of terrorism” and of undermining US interests in Syria. This speech came a few days after US President Donald Trump ordered the review to evaluate the suspension of sanctions related to the nuclear deal. (Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, State Department)
  • 20 APR: Today UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura commended the cooperation of NGOs and opposition groups after the convoy bombing last week. De Mistura confirmed that he will meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov in Geneva on Monday. The US declined to take part in this meeting, postponing the possibility of meeting with Russia and the UN. Jan Egeland, Senior Special Advisor to de Mistura, stated that aid agencies reached fewer besieged people with relief this year compared to the same period last year. (AP, WebTV, Reuters)

Humanitarian

None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 8 APR: “Analysis: U.S. Retaliation Will Not End Suffering in Syria” – Alessandria Masi (Syria Deeply)
  • 18 APR: “Chemical Weapons Aren’t the Real Problem in Syria” – Paul D. Miller (Foreign Policy)
  • 19 APR: “US Poll: Syria Missile Strike Boosted Trump’s Ratings” – Ken Schwartz (VOA)
  • 19 APR: “Shia Afghan Fighters in Syria” – Ali Alfoneh (Atlantic Council)
  • 19 APR: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Press Availability” (State Department)
  • 20 APR: “Syrian Government Closes Final Loophole to Tighten Siege of East Damascus Suburbs” – Alaa Nassar, Ammar Hamou, Justin Clark, and Madeline Edwards(Syria Direct)
  • 20 APR: “OSE Syria – Media Stakeout: Humanitarian Access Task Force Update” – UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and his humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland (WebTV)
  • 20 APR: “Anatomy of a Sarin Bomb Explosion (Part II)” – Dan Kaszeta (Bellingcat)
  • 20 APR: “Strike Does Not a Strategy Make” – Anthony Elghossain (Syria Source)