TSI Syria Update: June 23, 2017

Takeaway

Clashes between Assad Coalition forces and armed opposition groups (AOGs) continued in the opposition-held Damascus neighborhood of Jobar and Eastern Ghouta today. AOGs launched a counteroffensive that recaptured some of the areas they lost in the battle in recent days while pro-government warplanes targeted several villages in Eastern Ghouta. Although Jobar and Eastern Ghouta are supposedly in one of the the Russian “de-escalation zones” established in the Astana talks, the areas have seen heavy clashes since June 15 when pro-government forces launched the current offensive.

Military

  • 16 JUN: The US-led Coalition put out a statement that on 16 June it killed Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a top ISIS financial facilitator, in an airstrike near Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor governorate.  (CJTF-OIR)
  • 22-23 JUN: Fighting continued in Raqqa on Friday, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued to advance into the city. Clashes were reported in the western district of Hattin, partially under the control of the SDF. Notably, reports from activists and SDF officials indicated between 25 and 70 ISIS fighters surrendered to the SDF on Thursday. (ANHA, @Raqqa_SL, @QSD_Jabha-AR)
  • 23 JUN: On Friday, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced its naval forces in the Mediterranean launched six Kalibr cruise missiles at ISIS targets in western Hama. According to a MoD statement, the strike targeted infrastructure used to house weapons and ammunition for militants fleeing the US-led Coalition offensive on Raqqa. This is the second time is less than a month Russia has used its forces in the Mediterranean to target ISIS positions in Syria. In a similar strike on 31 May, and the first of its kind in 2017, Russia launched cruise missiles on ISIS forces east of Palmyra. Notably, the Russian statement did not say whether it had informed the US prior to this latest strike, saying only that Turkey and Israel were notified beforehand. (WSJ, BBC, Hurriyet, @mod_russia)
  • 23 JUN: Violence between Assad Coalition forces and armed opposition groups (AOGs) continued in Daraa on Friday. Pro-government airstrikes targeted AOG positions within the city near the al-Moukhayam and to the east in the town of Naemeh. AOGs and the Syrian government’s elite 4th Armored Division clashed in the east of the city. There were also unconfirmed reports from Syrian activists that Assad Coalition aircraft launched an airstrike on the town of Nasib near the Jordanian border. Daraa is currently witnessing some of the heaviest fighting between the Assad Coalition and AOGs in Syria, despite being included in the 4 May Astana “de-escalation zone” agreement. (Orient News, SOHR, Qasioun, Smart News-AR, Zaman al-Wasl via The Syria Observer)
  • 23 JUN: Assad Coalition forces reportedly advanced along the Syria/Iraq border on Friday, capturing several locations previously held by ISIS near Wadi al-Waer. State-run news reported these gains place pro-government forces roughly 100km from the ISIS-held border city of al-Bukamal in Deir Ezzor. (Al-Masdar, SOHR, All4Syria-AR) (Analyst note: If confirmed, this advance would mean pro-government forces are poised to enter the province of Deir Ezzor.)
  • 23 JUN: On Friday, armed opposition group Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) launched a counteroffensive in Ein Terma Valley in Eastern Ghouta to combat the Assad Coalition gains in the area in recent days. Meanwhile, clashes between Assad Coalition forces and FAR continued today in the Damascus neighborhood of Jobar amidst reports of intense pro-government airstrikes in several parts of Eastern Ghouta including Jobar, Ein Terma, and Hazzeh leaving behind five civilians killed. (Smart News-AR, Ghouta GMC FB-AR, Jobar News-AR)
  • 23 JUN: Clashes intensified between Assad Coalition forces and US-backed armed opposition groups (AOGs) Ossoud al-Sharqiya and Quwat Ahmad al-Abdo on Friday in Bir al-Qassab, in al-Badiya area east of Damascus. The clashes come as AOG try to retake positions were recently captured by pro-government forces in Bir al-Qassab. In the clashes AOGs used missiles to push Assad Coalition from the area, and reportedly Russian warplanes carried out strikes on AOGs locations during the clashes. Ossoud al-Sharqia announced the death of four fighters of its fighters during the battles in Bir al-Qassab. (Qasioun, Smart News-AR, @Osoudalsharqia-AR)
  • 23 JUN: Pro-government warplanes reportedly carried out strikes on residential areas in Mhemdiya village in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor province. The strike killed at least 10 civilians and left several others injured. (Deir Ezzor 24-AR, Qasioun)
  • 23 JUN: The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) reported US-led Coalition killed nearly 470 civilians between 23 May and 23 June. This is the the highest civilian death toll in US-led coalition attacks for a single month since they started their operations in September 2014. (SOHR)

Political

  • None.

Humanitarian

  • 23 JUN: On Friday, humanitarian aid convoy delivered humanitarian aid to the besieged area of  al-Rastan north of Homs city. A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) stated that 40 trucks carrying food, medicine and other essentials headed to Talbiseh, home to around 84,000 people. The last aid convoy delivered to the area was on June 15 earlier this month.  (Qasioun-AR, @SARC_Homs)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 JUN: “Kurds reaching critical juncture in US partnership” – Fehim Tastekin (Al-Monitor)
  • 22 JUN: “Critics Say U.S. Is ‘Sleepwalking’ Into Wider Role in Syria” – Helene Cooper (NYTimes)
  • 23 JUN: “Analysis: The Battlefield in Syria’s Southernmost City, Daraa” – Housen Akoush, Nawar Oliver (Syria Deeply)
  • 23 JUN: “Raqqa and Mosul: Humanity Under Attack” – Robert Mardini (ICRC)
  • 23 JUN: “Lawlessness in Syria’s Regime-Held Areas and the Future of Governance in Syria” – Saleem al-Omar (Atlantic Council)
  • 23 JUN: “CIA Set Up Secret Back Channel With Syria to Try to Free US Hostage” – Adam Goldman (NYTimes)