TSI Syria Update: May 26, 2017

Takeaway

US-led coalition airstrikes on the town of al-Mayadin, south of Deir Ezzor city, reportedly killed over 100 civilians in the past 24 hours. Airstrikes carried out on Thursday killed an estimated 35, while strikes on Friday killed at least 80. This comes just days after SOHR reported at least 225 civilians were killed in US-led coalition airstrikes between 23 April and 23 May. An equally recent Airwars report stated March and April saw the highest number of civilian casualties on record. These two reports indicate the highest number of civilian or noncombatant deaths since the US-led coalition began airstrikes in 2014. Despite comments from the Trump administration to the contrary, this trend seems to suggest an increasingly aggressive policy from the US regarding how the coalition carries out its air war against the Islamic State, in addition to a notable easing of restrictions designed to prevent civilian deaths.

Military

  • 25 MAY: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) launched an attack on Thursday night on the Air Force Intelligence center, in al-Zahraa neighborhood, west of Aleppo city. Five pro-government fighters were reportedly killed in the attack and several others injured. (Orient News-AR, 7al-AR)
  • 26 MAY: US-led coalition airstrikes reportedly killed over 100 civilians in the past 24 hours in al-Mayadin, south of Deir Ezzor city. Late Thursday evening, two aircraft, allegedly supported by drones, targeted a building complex in al-Mayadin. Reports suggest that at least 35 civilians were killed, predominantly family members of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters. Early Friday morning, an additional airstrike targeted al-Mayadin, killing an estimated 80 people, again reported to be mostly ISIS family members. US defense officials have not yet issued a statement on the airstrikes, however, a coalition spokesman confirmed airstrikes had been carried out near Mayadin on both Thursday and Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that at least 33 children were killed in the strikes. (SOHR, Reuters, MEE, SOHR)
  • 25 MAY: Assad Coalition forces continued advancing in the Eastern Qalamoun area and gained control of more locations from the Islamic State. The new advancements occurred in Jabal Abu Dali, Thnaya, Kasarat al-Naqoura, in addition to gaining full control of the Damascus-Palmyra highway. (7al-AR, all4syria-AR) (Analyst Note: The new advancement in eastern Qalamoun and al-Badiya enabled Assad Coalition forces to surround opposition-held Jayroud, Ruhaybah, and Dumayr.)
  • 26 MAY: Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) gained complete control of Baath Dam on Friday by taking the village of Kaderan and advancing on the northern part of dam. (Qasioun-AR, all4Syria-AR)
  • 26 MAY: A US service member died in northern Syria due to injuries sustained when a vehicle rolled over. No further details were released by the Combined Joint Task Force, and it was not clear from the statement whether the incident took place in a combat situation. (CJTFOIR, Reuters)

Political

  • 26 MAY: On Friday, French Minister of Defense Sylvie Goulard acknowledged that France has special forces on the ground in Syria. Goulard suggested it was possible these forces may take part in the upcoming offensive on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in a support capacity, similar to that of US special forces in Syria. (Europe 1, Orient News)
  • 26 MAY: On Friday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned the rising number of civilian casualties in the fight against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.  Civilians in Syria are increasingly paying the price as counter-ISIS airstrikes escalate while ISIS cracks down on those in and around areas remaining under its control. Al-Hussein urged all states participating in the US-led coalition to increase efforts to distinguish legitimate military targets from civilians. (OHCHR)
  • 26 MAY: According to a Pentagon statement on Friday, three senior Islamic State fighters have been killed in Syria and Iraq. Mustafa Gunes, an Islamic State operative from Turkey, was killed in an airstrike on al-Mayadin, Syria, on 27 April. Abu Asim al-Jazeri, an Islamic State planner from Algeria, was killed in al-Mayadin on 11 May. Abu Khattab al-Rawi, an Islamic State military leader, was killed in al Qaim, Iraq, on 18 May. (Reuters, CJTFOIR)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 25 MAY: “Accusations of forced displacement as rebel infighting splits East Ghouta in two” – Kristen Demilio, Bahira al-Zarier, Majdoleen a-Zouabi, and Tariq Adely (Syria Direct)
  • 26 MAY: “Press Release: Airstrikes, ISIL causing civilian casualties in Syria” – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (OHCHR)
  • 26 MAY: “America’s Allies Conceal Their Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria” – Samuel Oakford (Foreign Policy)