TSI Syria Update: June 13, 2017

Takeaway

On Monday night, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attacked areas controlled by Turkish-backed armed opposition groups (AOGs) and Ahrar al-Sham to the north and west of Aleppo city. The Turkish army responded by shelling SDF locations. At least 30 fighters from both sides were killed in the clashes. The attack happened one day after infighting among Turkish-backed forces in the city of al-Bab in northern Aleppo governorate.

Military

  • 13 JUN: On Tuesday, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reached Raqqa’s Old City walls after fierce clashes with Islamic State (ISIS) forces in al-Sina’a industrial zone, east of the city. This places the SDF closer to the city center, a heavily fortified area with an extensive network of tunnels and a large number of ISIS fighters. Tens of Raqqa residents reportedly left the city amid calls from Human Rights Watch and UNHCR to secure a safe passage for civilian fleeing the conflicts. (SOHR, AFP, UNHCR)
  • 13 JUN: Assad Coalition forces reportedly took control of Hosh al-Dawahira in besieged Eastern Ghouta. This advance comes after several attempts by pro-government militias to advance in the area, in addition to the ongoing clashes among armed opposition groups in the Eastern Ghouta enclave. (Baladna News-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • 13 JUN: Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly attacked Turkish-backed armed opposition factions and Ahrar al-Sham on several fronts in northern Aleppo, including Marea, Darat Ezza, and near Qalaat Semaan. The Turkish army allegedly shelled SDF locations during the attack. Some sources reported that the SDF coordinated with pro-government militias from Nubbol and al-Zahra who also participated in the attack. At least 30 fighters from both sides were killed. (Smart News-AR, all4Syria-AR, Hawar News-AR, Almodon-AR)
  • 13 JUN: ISIS attacked Assad Coalition forces with a car bomb near al-Abbasiya in Palmyra, east of Homs city. The attack was followed with clashes between pro-government and ISIS militants near Hwesis and Tel al-Souana. The attack killed at least ten pro-government fighters. (Qasioun, 7al-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 13 JUN: Assad Coalition forces reportedly captured several ISIS-held villages in western Raqqa governorate and the Tabqa crossroad on the Ithriya-Tabqa highway. The highway  was used by ISIS to launch attacks against government-held towns. Assad Coalition forces now surround ISIS-held areas in rural Raqqa and Aleppo on all sides except the south. (Reuters, Smart News-AR)  

Political

  • 12 JUN: In an Armed Services Committee hearing on Monday reviewing the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Budget Request, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated the US does not currently “have the reach” to address the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. Instead, US focus will remain on defeating ISIS in the east of the country.  (HASC, BIVN)
  • 13 JUN: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov reportedly stated the next round of intra-Syrian peace talks will be held in Astana in early July. Bogdanov said talks were underway with Iran and Turkey to determine the exact date. If confirmed, this would be the second time this month the Astana talks have been pushed back. Bogdanov also allegedly said a new round of Syria talks in Geneva would take place immediately after the talks in Astana; however, this statement has not been confirmed by the United Nations or UN Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. (SANA, Reuters)
  • 13 JUN: Ahrar al-Sham and Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated AOGs reportedly agreed to form a committee to resolve disputes and prevent infighting in northern Aleppo governorate. This agreement comes after a day of deadly clashes between AOGs in al-Bab city. (Smart News-AR, Qasioun-AR, Almodon-AR)
  • 13 JUN: Turkish authorities temporarily reopened the Bab al-Salama border crossing to permit Syrians to celebrate the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday with their families in Syria. The Bab al-Salama border crossing was closed for more than two years because of ISIS presence in nearby Azaz city in northern Aleppo governorate. The crossing will be open 13 June-23 June and 28 June-14 July. (Syria Direct)
  • 13 JUN: US military spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon said five full-time staff are being added to the team that investigates reports of civilian casualties due to US-led Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The new personnel include aviation, intelligence, and legal experts. The team previously included two full-time and two part-time personnel. (AP)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 15 MAY: “Summary report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the high-level panel discussion on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic (​A/HRC/35/15) (Advance edited version)” (ReliefWeb)
  • 11 JUN: “New ICTJ Study: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon See Security, Restoration of Dignity as Key Conditions for Return,” (ICTJ)
  • 13 JUN: “Syria: Key Concerns for Raqqa Battle” (Human Rights Watch)
  • 13 JUN: “On Syria Fronts, US-backed Forces Probe Raqqa as Iran-allied Fighters Gain Key Foothold” – Louisa Loveluck (Washington Post)
  • 13 JUN: “Understanding What Syrian Refugees Want” – Daniel Howden (Syria Deeply)
  • 13 JUN: “Aleppo’s Warlords and Post-War Reconstruction” – Tobias Schneider (Middle East Institute)