TSI Syria Update: May 22, 2017

Takeaway

Today the Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced the launch of “Operation Desert Volcano” to remove Assad Coalition forces (particularly its militias) from the al-Badiya desert area. Assad Coalition forces are reportedly advancing toward a US-led Coalition base in al-Badiya. Assad Coalition forces clashed today with ISIS forces in various areas, including in al-Badiya, and received reinforcements from the pro-government militia Liwa al-Quds. The US-led Coalition struck an Assad Coalition convoy approaching their base last week to indicate it would use air power to protect its allies and forces on the ground. US officials have reiterated the message, though it appears Assad Coalition forces are continuing in their advance despite US cautions and the new FSA operation.

Military

  • 19 MAY: The Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly signed an agreement with the leadership from Hajar al-Aswad to leave southern Damascus areas of Tadamon, Yarmouk, al-Esali, and Hajar al-Aswad. An estimated 2,000 ISIS fighters will leave the area with their families in the next few days. (Mukhim al-Yarmouk Biqalbna FB-AR, Mukhim al-Yarmouk News FB-AR)
  • 21 MAY: The last batch of forcibly transferred people left al-Waer on Sunday. Approximately 1,500 opposition fighters with their families were the last group to leave for Idlib province or Jarablus city in Aleppo province. An estimated 100 Russian officers facilitated the evacuation, and it was reported that government forces already entered the city Sunday afternoon, though the agreement stipulated a six month waiting period. (Reuters, Syria Direct, BBC)
  • 21 MAY: The Islamic State (ISIS) killed at least 14 Ahrar al-Sham fighters in a suicide attack on Sunday in Tal al-Toqan, roughly 14 kilometers east of Saraqib, Idlib. Among those reported killed was a local Ahrar al-Sham commander. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement issued via its news agency Amaq on Monday, in which it stated at least 50 fighters were killed in the attack. Ahrar al-Sham released a statement with its condolences for those killed in the attack. (SOHR, AP, Al-Jazeera, Al Masdar, @AhrarAl_ShamAR)
  • 21 MAY: On Sunday, ISIS attacked the village of al-Boshams, east of Deir Ezzor, held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). ISIS fighters killed an estimated 30 people during the attack and kidnapped another 15, most of them civilians. Later on ten of the kidnapped people were found killed. (Smart News-AR, all4Syria-AR)
  • 21 MAY: Jaysh al-Islam (JAI) and ISIS exchanged prisoners in the besieged area of Yarmouk in Rural Damascus. ISIS released a JAI commander and a civilian from Yarmouk in exchange for two of ISIS fighters. (Smart News-AR, All4Syria-AR)
  • 22 MAY: Assad Coalition forces targeted the opposition-held areas of Daraa al-Balad and al-Manshiya in Daraa city with artillery and airstrikes. Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operation Room (BMOR), an opposition operation room in Daraa, claimed they repelled an advance by pro-government forces on al-Minshiya neighbourhood. (Orient News, SMO-AR, Smart News-AR, BMOR FB-AR)
  • 22 MAY: On Monday, the US-led Coalition reportedly killed two children and injured at least eight others while targeting the ISIS-held city of Mayadin, east of Deir Ezzor. The areas targeted were civilian with no military presence. (Qasioun-AR, Deir Ezzor 24)
  • 22 MAY: Assad Coalition planes targeted the Deir Ezzor neighborhood of al-Oradi today, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 20. The death toll may rise due to severe lack of medical supplies and blood in the area. (Deir Ezzor 24, @DeirEzzor24)
  • 22 MAY: Assad coalition forces targeted the Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Douma, Kafr Batna, and Hamouriya with artillery shelling. The attacks killed a civilian and injured several others. (Smart News-AR, Jobar News-AR, SOHR-AR)
  • 22 MAY: Assad Coalition and ISIS forces clashed in the ISIS-held village of Uqayribat today. Assad Coalition shelling killed an estimated 11 civilians and caused civilians to flee to caves in the surrounding area. The Uqayribat Local Council announced a state of emergency in the area due to pro-government forces conducting an intensive two-week air campaign targeting Uqayribat and nearby villages. Food and medical supplies are seriously lacking.The Council also asked the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for help opening a humanitarian corridor. (Smart News-AR, Baladi News-AR, Shaam-AR, Uqayribat LC FB-AR)
  • 22 MAY: Today the Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced the launch of “Operation Desert Volcano” to remove Assad Coalition forces (particularly its militias) from the al-Badiya desert area. Assad Coalition forces are advancing toward a US-led Coalition base in al-Badiya. Assad Coalition forces clashed today with ISIS forces around Palmyra and in several places near Jab al-Jarrah and Jabal al-Shumariya. Liwa al-Quds, a pro-government militia, reportedly arrived to reinforce Assad Coalition forces in the area. (Step Agency-AR, Smart News-AR, Shaam-AR, @FSAPlatform, Syria Direct) (Analyst Note: The US-led Coalition struck an Assad Coalition convoy approaching the base near al-Tanf in al-Badiya last week to indicate it would use air power to protect its allies and forces on the ground. US officials have reiterated the message – see 18 May TSI Syria Update.)

Political

  • 22 MAY: UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura briefed the UN Security Council today on the situation in Syria and on the intra-Syrian peace talks that were held last week. De Mistura noted that despite “promising” steps following the 4 May agreement in Astana, clashes between Assad Coalition forces and armed opposition groups have continued in Hama, Homs, and Damascus, in addition to other areas, with some of these clashes taking place with the so-called “de-escalation zones.” De Mistura also said there had been incremental progress at intra-Syrian talks last week, but much work remained. (UN News Centre, WebTV)

Humanitarian

  • 21 MAY: The Syrian Red Crescent delivered humanitarian aid to Fuah and Kefraya, on Sunday, distributing mattresses, blankets, canned goods, and hygiene kits to a reported 2,191 individuals. (SARC)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 18 MAY: “How to Get Away with Mass Murder: Denying Mass Atrocities in Sri Lanka and Syria” – Kate Cronin-Furman (War on the Rocks)
  • 19 MAY: “Syria Has Effectively Ceased to Exist” – Jonathan Spyer (FP)
  • 20 MAY: “The Scramble for post-ISIS Syria Has Officially Begun” – Uri Friedman (The Atlantic)
  • 21 MAY: “How Trump Could Deal a Blow to Iran–and Help Save Syria” – Josh Rogin (Washington Post)
  • 22 MAY: “Searching for Syria? Google and UNHCR offer answers to five top questions” – UNHCR/Google (Searching for Syria)