TSI Syria Update: June 28, 2017

Takeaway

The Kurdish YPG clashed with Turkish military forces and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups in northwestern Aleppo governorate near Azaz yesterday. The clashes took place amid rumors that Turkey is preparing to launch an offensive to advance into YPG-controlled areas.

Military

  • 27 JUN: Clashes between Turkish forces, Turkey-backed armed opposition Groups (AOGs) armed opposition groups, and the Kurdish YPG erupted Monday night in northwestern Syria near Azaz. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Turkish military said it was responding to YPG machine gun fire on Turkey-backed forces near the city of Maranaz, and retaliated with artillery strikes. However, the YPG released a statement saying the clashes were the latest in a series of escalating attacks from the Turkish military and AOGs elements on YPG positions in the area. (Reuters, ARA News, YPG Press Center) (Analyst Note: This clash comes amid heightened tensions between Turkey and the YPG in northern Syria as rumors are circulating of a looming Turkish offensive. In recent weeks there has been an increased Turkish military presence in the area, including deployments of artillery units to Azaz.)
  • 27-28 JUN: Assad Coalition artillery and warplanes continued targeting several locations in Daraa province. The artillery bombed the town of al-Harra killing at least three children and a woman while pro-government helicopters threw barrel bombs on the residential areas in al-Ajami town killing a woman and her daughter. The artillery and airstrikes also targeted Daraa al-Balad neighborhood in Daraa city, Tafas town and al-Lajat area. (All4syria-AR, Smart News-AR, Qasioun, SN4HR, SOHR)
  • 28 JUN: Clashes between Assad Coalition forces and the AOGs Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) continued today in the Jobar neighborhood and Ein Terma in Eastern Ghouta. In the clashes FAR reportedly destroyed a tank for pro-government forces while government forces bombed Jobar with missiles and airstrikes. (7al-AR, @Alrahmancorps4-AR, Baladi News-AR)
  • 28 JUN: The village of Dablan east of Deir Ezzor city was targeted with cluster bombs today from an unidentified jet, killing at least 40 civilians. The number is expected to rise as many of the injured are in critical condition and medical care is difficult to access in the area. (@DeirEzzor24, Qasioun, BBC) (Analyst Note: Both US-led Coalition and Assad Coalition (Russian and Syrian) aircraft are active in Deir Ezzor, but  the Assad Coalition partners are the only parties that have been documented dropping internationally-banned cluster munitions.)
  • 28 JUN: On Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a strike on Syrian government artillery positions after a stray shell landed in the Golan Heights. This is the fourth such incident in less than a week. The Israeli strikes come in the context of nearly a week of fighting between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Assad Coalition forces near al-Baath city after HTS and armed opposition groups launched an offensive to capture the city. Additionally, the Assad Coalition reportedly carried out multiple airstrikes on Masahara and Naba al-Sakhr in the Quneitra countryside. (Haaretz, @IDFSpokesperson, Orient News)
  • 28 JUN: US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced in Raqqa today and captured part of al-Nahda district in the western part of the city. The SDF also clashed with ISIS fighters near the town of al-Sheikh Jamal, to the south of Raqqa city. The southern front of Raqqa has seen intense clashes in recent days. (@QSD_Jabha-AR, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 28 JUN: Brett McGurk, the American special envoy to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, visited northern Syria on Wednesday to meet with the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC), the body set up by the US-backed SDF to assume control of the city once ISIS is removed. McGurk met with the RCC to discuss the future of Raqqa following the defeat of ISIS. According to Omar Alloush, member of the council, this is the third time McGurk has visited the RCC. Alloush also stated McGurk promised infrastructure assistance, but did not discuss specific sums. (Reuters, @rupertthjones) (Analyst Note: McGurk’s visit follows a recent report that the RCC is effectively hamstrung by a lack of funding, even prior to assuming control of Raqqa. According to its members, the RCC has received only small private donations so far. The US has stated it is prepared to fund the council, providing they prove themselves to be “inclusive and representative.” The RCC estimates it will take approximately $10 million per year to rebuild Raqqa’s infrastructure. There is also tension on the local level regarding whether the RCC will actually represent the Sunni Arab majority population of Raqqa, since it was established by the SDF, which is dominated by Kurdish YPG forces)
  • 28 JUN: Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO conference in Brussels on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis stated Assad appears to have heeded the US warning on Monday not to launch another chemical weapons strike. Mattis stated “It appears they took the warning seriously. They didn’t do it.”  (Reuters, MEE, Al-Monitor)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 27 JUN: “In Syria, Trump is Letting Iran and Assad Win” – Frederic C. Hoff (News Week)
  • 27 JUN: “US Ups Ante With New Syria Warning” – Charles Lister (MEI)
  • 28 JUN: “The International Community Can Help Syrians Rebuild Syria” – Henry Hogger (Syria Deeply)