TSI Syria Update: June 8, 2017

Takeaway

Today US aircraft shot down a pro-government drone that fired on US-led Coalition forces near al-Zaqaf outpost. The munition from the pro-government drone did not detonate and caused no casualties or injuries. The attack marks the first time Assad Coalition forces targeted US-led Coalition forces, and comes one day after Assad Coalition forces threatened to strike American positions in Syria.

The downing of the drone followed an engagement earlier on Thursday, where US-led Coalition forces targeted two Assad Coalition armed technical vehicles advancing inside the established de-confliction zone near al-Tanf airbase. This was the third US-led Coalition strike against Assad Coalition forces in al-Badiya in recent weeks. Operation Inherent Resolve officials stated that their mission is to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. They voiced concerns regarding any hostile intent or action by pro-government forces, and indicated they will take the appropriate measures to protect US-led Coalition forces.

Military

  • 8 JUN: On Thursday, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gained ground against Islamic State (ISIS) in the offensive to take Raqqa city. SDF forces captured part of Jazara district to the west of Raqqa with US-led Coalition aerial support. The US-led Coalition conducted 22 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the city. Five fighters from SDF were reportedly killed in the clashes with ISIS forces. Tens of civilians were reportedly prevented from fleeing the city by ISIS forces. Notably, there were unconfirmed reports of US Special Forces fighting on the front lines on the northern and western axes of the offensive. (Smart News-AR, CENTCOM, SOHR, @Raqqa_SL, SOHR)
  • 8 JUN: US-backed armed opposition groups Ossoud al-Sharqiya and Ahmad al-Abdo reportedly targeted Assad Coalition forces with missiles in the Zaza checkpoint and Tishreen power plant in the ongoing opposition offensive of al-Ard Lana (The Land is Ours) to control al-Badiya area. (@osoudalsharqia-AR)
  • 8 JUN: Iran-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) captured Tal Safouk checkpoint from ISIS forces on Thursday as part of a campaign to control the Iraq-Syria border and turn it over to Syrian and Iraqi security forces. The checkpoint is the last crossing point that ISIS controlled in Nineveh Iraqi province. The PMUs have stated they are willing to advance into Syria but not have not done so as of yet.  (Rudaw, @teamsmediawar-AR, @OIRSpox)
  • 8 JUN: For the first time, Assad Coalition forces reportedly shelled Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in three areas with artillery. Co-President of Syria Democratic Council in al-Raqqa Ilham Ehmed and other Kurdish sources reported the incident, saying the shelling targeted areas south of Maskaneh and west of al-Tabaqa city, near the administrative borders of Raqqa and Aleppo. No reports of casualties. (@ilham_ehmed-AR, Ara News-AR, Hawar News-AR)
  • 8 JUN: Pro-government warplanes and artillery targeted ISIS-controlled Ukayrbat city and al-Huraysha and Soha villages east of Hama province, in a battle for territory in eastern Hama province. The bombardment killed at least three civilians and injured several others. Almost 50 Assad Coalition fighters were killed in clashes with ISIS on Wednesday in al-Barguthiyah, east of Salamiyah city. (Smart News-AR, 7al-AR, Baladi News-AR, SOHR)
  • 8 JUN: Assad Coalition forces attacked Ahrar al-Sham in the town of Hurabnafsa, south of Hama city. Several fighters from both sides were reportedly killed. Neither side made an advancements in the area. (Smart News-AR, 7al-AR) (Analyst Note: The Assad Coalition is trying to take over Hurabnafsa town to tighten the siege on al-Rastan and Talbiseh towns in northern Homs.)
  • 8 JUN: On Thursday morning, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an attack on Azaz, north of Aleppo city. The town is held by Turkish-backed armed opposition groups as part of Operation Euphrates Wrath. SDF failed to advance in the area, and four fighters from each side were reportedly killed. (Baladi News-AR, Smart News-AR, Shaam-AR)
  • 8 JUN: US-led Coalition aircraft shot down an Assad Coalition unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in al-Badiya on Thursday. The UAV was brought down after it fired several munitions on the US-led Coalition forces who are training armed opposition groups in al-Badiya to combat ISIS. The munitions did not detonate and caused no casualties or damages. US-backed Maghaweer al-Thawra claimed the UAV was brought down near al-Zaqaf outpost. Spokesman for US forces in Iraq and Syria Colonel Ryan Dillon stated the UAV was likely Iranian made. This is the first time the US-led Coalition forces were attacked by an Assad Coalition UAV and it came one day after pro-government forces threatened to attack US forces in Syria. Shooting down the UAV followed an airstrike by the US-led Coalition forces on two pro-government vehicles that advanced into the de-confliction zone in al-Tanf. (CENTCOM, Foreign Policy, The Hill, @MaghaweirThowra-AR, DOD-video)

Political

  • 7 JUN: On Wednesday, the US Department of Defense announced that its investigation of an American airstrike on the al-Jinah mosque complex near Aleppo found the strike “complied with legal and operational requirements,” and resulted in only one possible civilian death. The investigation concluded the strike hit an al-Qaeda meeting, rather than a civilian gathering. This finding directly contradicts the significant body of evidence compiled by international human rights organizations and independent open source investigations. For more information, see TSI 18 April Brief. (Reuters, NYT, Airwars)
  • 8 JUN: Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anuar Zhainakov said the next round of Astana talks previously scheduled for 12-13 June will be postponed. Zhainakov added that experts from guarantor states Turkey, Russia, and Iran will continue the expert-level meetings to discuss issues related to de-escalation zones. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Thursday the initial date for the new Astana talks was postponed until 20 June. (Sputnik, SANA, AFP)
  • 8 JUN: UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow today to discuss the latest developments regarding in Syria. Both parties stressed the need to step up the Geneva talks, especially regarding constitutional reforms and combating terrorism in Syria. De Mistura and Lavrov also noted the importance of coordinating Geneva talks and the upcoming talks in Astana, and that the two processes should supplement each other. (Russian FM, AP, Russian FM)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 7 JUN: “US Insists It Did Hit Syrian al-Qaeda Meeting Despite Local Accounts” – Samuel Oakford (Airwars)
  • 7 JUN: “Afghan Fatemiyoun Division operative killed near US base in southeastern Syria” – Amir Toumaj (Long War Journal)
  • 8 JUN: “Beyond Iraq and Syria: ISIS’ Ability to Conduct Attack Abroad” – Daniel Byman (Brookings)
  • 8 JUN: “Thousands of civilians fleeing home, some for the 3rd time as Daraa city fighting spurs mass displacement” – Bahira al-Zarier, Alaa Nassar, and Madeline Edwards (Syria Direct)
  • 8 JUN: “Coalition statement on At Tanf” (CENTCOM)