TSI Syria Update: May 16, 2017

Takeaway

Intra-Syrian Geneva peace talks in reconvened today. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura met separately with delegations from both the Syrian government and the opposition. In a preliminary briefing on Monday, de Mistura noted this current round of talks would work in tandem with the recent Astana agreement that established four “de-escalation zones” across Syria. At the same time, Assad Coalition forces targeted several areas in Homs, Hama, and Rural Damascus with artillery and airstrikes, killing and wounding a number of civilians.

Military

  • 15 MAY: The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for two car bombs that exploded in the  Rukban refugee camp along the Syrian-Jordanian border late Monday. The explosion killed at least six civilians and five Jaysh Ahrar al-Ashar fighters, including a commander. (Reuters, all4Syria-AR, @ahraralashar-AR)
  • 15 MAY: Monday night, Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced north of Raqqa city and took control of two villages from ISIS (Aljaef and Abo Kera). After losing control of the villages, ISIS shelled them with mortars and killed four SDF fighters. (Smart News-AR, Aletihad Press-AR, Rihab News-AR)
  • 16 MAY: The tenth round of forced transfer populations left Waer for Idlib province on Tuesday. State-run media reported 50 buses transported roughly 2,350 people, among them 460 fighters. (SNHRAR, SANA)
  • 16 MAY: On Tuesday, Assad Coalition (Syrian and Russian) warplanes targeted several towns and villages in eastern Hama including Ukairibat, Hamad Omar, and Soha. The strikes killed 15 civilians and injured several dozens. Assad Coalition forces targeted other Hama cities of Kafr Zita and Al-Lataminah with barrel bombs and artillery. (Qasioun, Shaam-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 16 MAY: On Tuesday, Assad Coalition forces targeted the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Beit Naim, Hamouriya and al-Mohamadiya with more than ten surface-surface missiles. Six civilians, two of them children, were killed in Hamouriya. Jaysh al-Islam said they stopped Assad Coalition forces from advancing on Beit Naim, claiming to have killed 18 Assad Coalition soldiers and destroyed two tanks. (Smart News-AR, Step Agency-AR, all4syria-AR, @jaishalislam-AR, Shaam-AR)
  • 16 MAY: Today Assad Coalition forces targeted the city of Kafr Laha in northern Homs with artillery and airstrikes. The attacks killed an elderly woman and injured several others. (SOHR, Qasioun, Syria Mirror-AR, Shaam-AR)

Political

  • 13 MAY: On Saturday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said Turkey was offered the option of creating a ceasefire monitoring mission in Idlib province during the recent Astana meeting where Turkey, Iran, and Russia signed the de-escalation zones agreement. Turkey is also planning to establish a military base west of al-Bab in Tal Aqil. (Hurriyet, Asharq al-Awsat, Daily Sabah)
  • 15 MAY: US officials announced on Monday plans to supply Kurdish YPG forces in Syria with anti-tank weapons. Up to this point, the US has restricted its supply of weapons to the Kurds due to objections from Turkey. Officials noted the US is considering supplying the unguided version of the weapons, rather than the more sophisticated guided variant. (WSJ)
  • 16 MAY: Today the Syrian Foreign Ministry denied the US State Department’s accusations levelled against the Syrian government on Monday. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the accusation regarding the use of a crematorium to destroy evidence of mass murders committed at Saydnaya prison is fundamentally false and a “new Hollywood story.” (SANA, Syrian FM-AR, AP)
  • 16 MAY: Intra-Syrian peace talks in Geneva reconvened today. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura met separately with delegations from both the Syrian government and opposition, which is led by the High Negotiations Committee. Both delegations agreed to an agenda covering the four “baskets”: a political transition, a new constitution, elections, and combating terrorism. On Monday, de Mistura noted that the format of the discussions would change for this round of talks; specifically, smaller rooms and meetings, and more interactive discussion with an emphasis on facilitating “more movement.” (BBC, Middle East Eye, Reuters, PressTV)
  • 16 MAY: On Tuesday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly issued a joint statement with tribal leaders from Raqqa calling on Islamic State (ISIS) forces to surrender a maximum of ten days before the SDF assaults Raqqa city. The SDF stated there is no difference if ISIS forces surrender to the SDF, tribal leaders, or the recently established Raqqa Civilian Council. (ARA News)
  • 16 MAY: US President Donald Trump met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan today. Both leaders promised they would work together to combat terrorism in the Middle East. Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s concern for the US work with the Kurdish YPG in Syria. (White House, The Guardian)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 15 MAY: Transcript of press conference by the UN Special Envoy for Syria – Opening of the 6th round of intra-Syrian talks (UNOG)
  • 15 MAY: “The deal between Syrian Arabs and Kurds that could be the way forward in northern Syria” – Haid Haid (Middle East Eye)
  • 15 MAY: “Undercover in Idlib” Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa; YouTube)
  • 16 MAY: “Salvaging the U.S.-Turkish Alliance” – Gonul Tol and W. Robert Pearson (The Middle East Institute)
  • 16 MAY: “When it Comes to Syria and the Kurds, Erdogan will Leave Washington Empty-Handed” – Aaron Stein (War on the Rocks)
  • 16 MAY: “President Trump Gives Joint Statements with President Erdogan” (White House)