TSI Syria Update: May 23, 2017

Takeaway

Assad Coalition forces seized control of several locations from armed opposition groups in al-Badiya east of Homs, and roughly 80km east of Sweida in al-Rahbeh. These advances come in the wake of increased pro-Assad efforts to take control of al-Badiya, in particular the al-Tanf area and its strategic border crossing with Iraq. Pro-government advancement in the region comes one day after opposition groups announced the start of “Operation Desert Volcano,” which aims to retake territory recently captured by the Assad Coalition.

Military

  • 22 MAY: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) and Assad Coalition forces clashed in Daraa city on Monday. Al-Bunyan al-Marsous Operation Room (BMOR), an armed opposition operation room in Daraa, claimed AOGs stopped an advance of Assad Coalition forces on al-Manshiya area of the city. BMOR also claimed AOGs destroyed a tank and an ammunitions warehouse, and killed and injured several pro-government soldiers. (BMOR FB-AR, Qasioun-AR)
  • 22 MAY: The US-led Coalition may have conducted a covert ground operation near al-Bukamal, killing eight ISIS fighters. (SMO-AR, Okaz-AR)
  • 23 MAY: On Tuesday, two cars packed with explosives exploded in government-controlled areas of Syria when security forces fired on them. The first blew up in the Alawite-majority al-Zahraa neighborhood in Homs city, and the second exploded near a checkpoint on the road to Sayyida Zeinab, south of Damascus. ISIS claimed responsibility for the two explosions. Four civilians died in the explosions and many others were injured. (Al-Jazeera, AFP, SANA, Smart News-AR)
  • 23 MAY: Assad Coalition forces gained control of new locations east of Homs city after clashes with ISIS fighters. The newly-controlled areas (Jabal Mahasseh, Jabal Khanazer, Syriatell hill, Swanat al-Mahasseh, al-Qariteen Dam) bring Assad Coalition forces closer US-backed AOGs controlling al-Hableh area. (Qasioun-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, Step Agency-AR)
  • 23 MAY: Pro-government forces gained control of al-Rahbeh area, east of Sweida city, from armed opposition groups on Tuesday. This action may be considered part of Assad Coalition advancements toward the US-backed base near al-Tanf in al-Badiya. (Qasioun-AR, Rasd Syria-AR)
  • 23 MAY: ISIS targeted the government-controlled neighborhoods of al-Joura and Qusour in Deir-Ezzor city with artillery and mortar fire. The shelling killed at least four civilians and injured 14 others. (Smart News-AR, SOHR-AR)
  • 23 MAY: The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gained control of several villages and locations west of Raqqa city, mainly the villages of Salhabiya, Bowdiya and al-Rasheed dam. (Smart News-AR, Qasioun-AR)

Political

  • 22 MAY: On Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Syrian Ambassador Riyad Haddad met in Moscow to discuss developments in Syria, implementation of the recent “de-escalation zones” memorandum, and the latest round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. On Tuesday, Bogdanov met with Louay Hussein, Head of the Building the Syrian State (BSS) party, for a similar discussion. Both Bogdanov and Hussein reportedly noted the formation of a consolidated negotiating platform within the Syrian opposition would be key for future intra-Syrian dialogue. (Russian MFA, SANA, Russian MFA) [Analyst note: BSS is a government-tolerated “internal opposition” group]
  • 23 MAY: On Tuesday, two organizations monitoring airstrikes in Syria released reports about civilians deaths caused by US-led Coalition airstrikes.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed US-led Coalition airstrikes killed 225 civilians between 23 April and 23 May in 2017, which would make it the highest number of civilians killed by US-led Coalition airstrikes since it began its anti-Islamic State (ISIS) campaign in 2014. It also would mean the US-led Coalition killed more civilians in airstrikes last month than the Assad Coalition during the same period. Airwars said the US-led Coalition killed more civilians in Syria and Iraq in April 2017 than Russia. (SOHR, MEE, SOHR, Airwars)
  • 23 MAY: High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu briefed the UN Security Council today on two recently released OPCW fact-finding reports about chemical weapons use in Syria. The first dealt with the sulfur mustard attack on 16 September 2016 in Um Housh, while the second dealt with the recent sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April. Nakamitsu said she has plans to implement the elimination of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons facilities, and warned the UNSC against politicising the use of chemical weapons. (UN)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 18 MAY: “Hezbollah’s Military Involvement in Syria and its Wider Regional Role” – Mona Alami (KFCRIS)
  • 19  MAY: “Status update of the OPCW fact-finding mission in Syria regarding a reported incident in Khan Shaykhun, 4 April 2017” (UN)
  • 22 MAY: “Syria’s Reconstruction Plans Take Shape” – Tom Rollins (Al Monitor)
  • 23 MAY: “International Airstrikes and Civilian Casualty Claims in Iraq and Syria: April 2017” – Alex Hopkins (Airwars)
  • 23 MAY: “Four hours of water every 10 days: Municipal services falter in ‘overcrowded’ Idlib city” – Bahira al-Zarier, Lina Eghzawi, and Maria Nelson (Syria Direct)
  • 23 MAY: “Global Report on Internal Displacement” (IDMC)
  • 23 MAY: “Who and where are the Kurds?” – Diana Al Rifai and Mohsin Ali (Al-Jazeera)
  • 23 MAY: “How Does Russia Read the U.S. Strike on Pro-Assad Militants in Syria” (Syrian Observer)