TSI Syria Update: June 7, 2017

Takeaway

The tense situation in southern Syria continues to escalate, with the Assad Coalition threatening to directly strike American positions a day after the US targeted Iran-backed sectarian pro-government militias in an airstrike. The militias were hit after violating a no-go perimeter laid out by the US around its forces at the al-Tanf base near the Iraqi border. This is at least the third time that the US has intentionally targeted pro-Assad militias in recent months.

US forces are in at least two locations in the southern desert of Syria training and supporting Syrian opposition forces in the fight against ISIS, which has made significant progress in taking back al-Badiya desert in recent months. The pro-government Assad Coalition has been challenging these gains, fighting both ISIS and the Syrian opposition in what appears to be a push by Iran-backed militias in Syria to connect with those in Iraq. Forming an unbroken swathe of Iranian influence from Tehran to the Mediterranean.

Military

  • 7 JUN: Assad Coalition forces increased their attacks on Daraa city and the towns of Tafas and Dael with airstrikes on Wednesday. An estimated 12 airstrikes targeted Daraa alone, killing at least one civilian and injuring four others. The escalation comes in response to recent gains by AOGs, who recently captured most of the al-Manshiya district.  (EA Worldview, Smart News-AR, Baladi News-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 7 JUN: On Wednesday, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the town of Tal Qal’at Heraql, two kilometers to the west of Raqqa city, as well as al-Mishlab district in the eastern part of the city. The US-led Coalition supporting the offensive carried out seventeen airstrikes destroying one ISIS communication tower, various fighting positions, and tactical units. Nine SDF fighters were reportedly killed in the offensive so far. US-led Coalition airstrikes have also reportedly killed 30 civilians on Tuesday and Wednesday. An estimated 160,000 civilians are currently in the city. Despite Turkey’s concerns regarding the involvement of Kurdish YPG forces in the offensive, the Pentagon has recently stated the Incirlik airbase in Turkey is being used to launch US-led Coalition airstrikes in support of the assault on Raqqa. (US CENTCOM, AFP, SOHR, Smart News-AR, Hurriyet)
  • 7 JUN: Assad Coalition forces threatened to attack US positions in Syria following an airstrike by the US-led Coalition on Tuesday that targeted a pro-government convoy near al-Tanf. The Assad Coalition forces stated it was acting in self-restraint to allow for “other solutions” to take place while asserting that it has the capability to target American forces “whenever the conditions allow for it.” The US-led airstrike occurred after repeated warnings to Assad Coalition forces to not violate the de-confliction zone around al-Tanf. (Reuters, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 7 JUN: Unknown airstrikes, potentially from a member of the US-led Coalition, targeted the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Khalid Bin Al-Walid locations in al-Shajarah, west of Daraa. The attacks killed the leader of the group, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and a number of his associates. (Qasioun-AR, All4Syria-AR)
  • 7 JUN: Following its capture of the city of Maskanah east of Aleppo, Assad Coalition forces continued to advance, with Russian aerial support, toward Raqqa Governorate. Assad coalition forces took control of the towns of Khirbat Mohsen and Khirbat al-Sabe’, the first towns to fall under the regime’s control in al-Raqqa governorate since it lost it to ISIS forces in June 2016. (SOHR, Qasioun-AR)
  • 7 JUN: Assad Coalition forces took control of areas from ISIS including al-Mostadeera mountains, east of Homs near Palmyra, and several hills near Arak village east of the Palmyra. (Sham FM FB-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • 7 JUN: The AOG Jaysh Ossoud al-Sharqiya attacked Assad Coalition forces in al-Zelf dam and surrounding area, in the eastern countryside of al-Suweyda. The attack is part of the ongoing offensive al-Ard Lana (The Land is Ours). The group claimed it destroyed a tank and an armored vehicle, and killed several Assad Coalition fighters. (@osoudalsharqia-AR, Shaam-AR, Qasioun)

Political

  • 7 JUN: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) reportedly took over three Failaq al-Sham (FAS) centers in Idlib province today:  two in Mdaya, and another in al-Nakyyar towns south of Idlib. HTS fighters reportedly allowed FAS fighters to leave, but arrested one of the centers’ commanders. (all4syria-AR, Aletihad Press-AR)
  • 7 JUN: On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that any deconfliction zones unilaterally declared within Syria without the approval of Damascus were illegitimate and would not be recognized. This comes a day after the US-led Coalition struck an Assad Coalition convoy near al-Tanf after it advanced into a declared deconfliction zone extending roughly 55km around al-Tanf. (Ruptly-Video, RT, TASS)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 6 JUN: “Q&A: Offensive against ISIS-held Raqqa has been long in coming” – Philip Issa (AP)
  • 7 JUN: “The United States Is Getting Dragged Into the Fight for Syria’s South” – Suha Maayeh (Foreign Policy)
  • 7 JUN: “A Strategy for Ending the Syrian Civil War” – Colin H. Kahl, Ilan Goldenberg, and Nicholas Heras (CNAS)  
  • 7 JUN: “How does a Jaish al-Islam detention center differ from a regime prison? It doesn’t, says one man” – Bahira al-Zarier and Madeline Edwards (Syria Direct)
  • 7 JUN: “Syria Today and the Legacy of the 1967 War” – Ranj Alaadin (Brookings)
  • 7 JUN: “Sealing the Victory Over ISIS” – Frederic C. Hof (Atlantic Council)
  • 7 JUN: “As ISIS Retreats in Syria, the US and Iran Scramble for Control” – Louisa Loveluck and Loveday Morris (Washington Post)