TSI Syria Update: May 1, 2017

Takeaway

Clashes between armed opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta continued for the fourth day, with reports of as many as 100 killed so far, several of them civilians. The core of the fighting is between Jaysh al-Islam (JAI) and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS – formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), and to a lesser extent the FSA-affiliated Failaq al-Rahman. Protests were held throughout the weekend in Eastern Ghouta, as people called on the groups to stop the infighting and focus on the Syrian government, which has taken advantage of the fighting to make advances against armed groups in Qaboun. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced today that it is suspending medical support to hospitals in Eastern Ghouta after “outrageous breaches of respect” by armed groups involved in the infighting over the weekend.

Military

  • 29 APR: On Saturday, Assad Coalition (either Russian or Syrian) warplanes targeted the Syria Civil Defense, (SCD, White Helmets) center in Kafr Zita in northern Hama province. The attack killed eight White Helmets volunteers and is considered one of the deadliest attacks against the rescuers. (SCD, EA Worldview, AP, Washington Post)
  • 30 APR: The seventh round of transferees from al-Waer left for Idlib on Sunday. An estimated 2200 people were in this group , including 610 women and 900 children. (Zaman Al-Wasl, Orient News, @SiegeWatch)
  • 1 MAY: Today the US-led coalition reportedly carried out more than 20 airstrikes against residential neighborhoods of Tabqa city, killing and injuring civilians. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claimed they made a large advance in Tabqa, taking control over a majority of the city which was previously controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS still has control of al-Tabqa Dam. (Reuters, SOHR, Middle East Eye, Qasioun, Syria Direct)
  • 1 MAY: Clashes between armed opposition groups in besieged Eastern Ghouta continued today, after breaking out on Friday (see 28 April TSI Update). Jaysh al-Islam (JAI) is pitted against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS – formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and al-Rahman Corps (RC). The clashes killed at least 74 fighters and several civilians since Friday. The groups traded accusations in a series of statements while fighting over the weekend. All parties accused each other of cutting supply routes between Eastern Ghouta villages, and giving Assad Coalition forces an advantage in its offensive in the area. Clashes expanded to the areas of Zamalka and Saqba, with conflicting reports about who controls Jisreen and Hazzeh. Civilians in Arbin protested the clashes in the streets, but Jaish al-Islam reportedly fired on the demonstrators. Civil societies have released statements condemning the infighting as well. (Qasioun, Reuters, Al Jazeera, All4Syria-AR)
  • 1 MAY: Assad Coalition warplanes and artillery targeted the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Harasta, Misraba, Kafr Batna, Arbin, Saqba, and Hamouriyeh. One attack targeted the surgical hospital in Arbin, taking it out of service. At least three civilians were killed in the attack and more than 10 were injured. (Qasioun, @SiegeWatch, @SiegeWatch, @Erbenhospital-AR, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 30 APR: On Sunday, the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) reported on civilian casualties caused by US Coalition airstrikes between August 2014 and March 2017. The report said at least 352 civilians were killed during that time period. (OIR, Reuters)
  • 30 APR: On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced disappointment in the US for backing the Kurdish YPG, a group the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization. Erdogan said Turkey will take more actions against the YPG whether the US is supporting them or not. (Al-Jazeera, Reuters)
  • 1 MAY: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the new UN panel created to identify individuals guilty of war crimes in Syria will be functioning soon. (AFP)
  • 1 MAY: Human Rights Watch released a report today determining that “since late 2016…the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons has become widespread and systematic.” The report concluded that since December 2016 government warplanes dropped bombs with nerve agents at least four times. (Human Rights Watch, introductory video)
  • 1 MAY: The Syrian government delegation for the Astana Syrian peace negotiations arrived in Astana today ahead of the next round of talks scheduled for 3-4 May. (TASS)
  • 1 MAY: Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) released a statement today condemning several armed incursions into MSF-partner hospitals in the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Hazzeh and Eftreis, which it described as “outrageous breaches of respect.” MSF announced that it is suspending its support to Eastern Ghouta, demanding that armed groups meet five listed demands before it would restore support to the region. (MSF)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 29 APR: “Factions Fighting in the Syrian Civil War” – Cody Roche (Bellingcat)
  • 30 APR: “Inside the Conspiracy Theory That Turned Syria’s First Responders into Terrorists” – Emma Grey Ellis (Wired)
  • 1 MAY: “What Do Syrians Want Their Future to Be?” – Kristin Fabbe, Chad Hazlett, Tolga Sinmazdemir (Foreign Affairs)
  • 1 MAY: “A ‘University in Exile’ to Reconnect Syrian Students and Academics” – Charlotte Alfred (Syria Deeply)
  • 1 MAY: “Death by Chemicals: The Syrian Government’s Widespread and Systematic Use of Chemical Weapons” (HRW)
  • 1 MAY: “Syria: MSF condemns incursion by armed men into supported hospitals in East Ghouta” (MSF)