TSI Syria Update: July 11, 2017

Takeaway

Heavy fighting reported in besieged Eastern Ghouta as pro-government forces continue a two-week old offensive aimed at severing the supply lines between Jobar and Ein Tarma on the western front. If successful, the embattled Jobar neighborhood of Damascus will be entirely isolated from the Eastern Ghouta enclave. Fighting was also reported on the eastern front as pro-government forces try to advance in the rural Hawsh al-Dawahira area.

Military

  • 11 JUL: On Tuesday, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the Islamic State (ISIS)-held town of al-Ukairshi on the shores of the Euphrates, southeast of Raqqa city. Inside the city, the SDF has advanced deeper into Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik and the Old City districts amid intense clashes with ISIS militants. The SDF has been battling since 6 June to expel ISIS from Raqqa city and its surroundings. (AP, ARA News-AR)
  • 11 JUL: Clashes continued between Assad Coalition forces and US-backed armed opposition group (AOG) Ossoud al-Sharqiya in al-Badiya in southern Syria today. Ossoud al-Sharqiya stated it recaptured part of the terrain it lost to Assad Coalition forces yesterday. The group also said it downed a Syrian warplane approximately 50 miles east of the city of Damascus near Umm Rummam. Pro-government media, citing Syrian Army sources, denied this claim.  (@osoudalshrqia-AR, Qasioun-AR, @AlwatanSy-AR, Reuters)
  • 11 JUL: Assad Coalition artillery shelled Ein Tarma and Douma today amid ongoing clashes between AOG Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) and pro-government forces near Ein Tarma on the western side of E. Ghouta. Meanwhile Jaysh al-Islam reported killing a number of pro-government forces on the eastern edge of E. Ghouta near Hawsh al-Dawahira where they have also been trying to advance into the besieged enclave.  (7al-AR, Ghouta GMC FB-AR, Ghouta GMC FB-AR, Step News-AR) (Analyst note: If successful, the pro-government offensive against Ein Tarma and Jobar will isolate Jobar from the Eastern Ghouta enclave.)
  • 11 JUL: The ceasefire in southwestern Syria, which went into effect on Sunday noon, continues to largely hold. Scattered violations were reported across Daraa, Quneitra, and Suwayda by both the opposition and pro-government media. No Assad Coalition warplanes were sighted in southwestern Syria today. Also, there were unconfirmed reports of the Assad Coalition withdrawing some of its troops from Daraa toward Damascus. (all4syria-AR, al-Watan-AR, Smart News-AR, @SyrianHNC_en) (Analyst note: If the news regarding troop movement is true, the government is likely sending the forces as reinforcements to Eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus. Pro-government forces have launched offensives on both the eastern and western boundaries of the besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, despite the fact that it it falls into one of the four “de-escalation zones” announced by Russia, Turkey and Iran at an earlier round of Astana talks.)
  • 11 JUL: US-led Coalition warplanes carried out airstrikes on the village of al-Zayanat, south al-Shaddadi area, in the southern countryside of al-Hasakeh governorate. The strike targeted residential area and reportedly killed 10 civilians from three different families. (Qasioun-AR, SOHR-AR) (Analyst Note: The US-backed opposition group Maghaweir al-Thowra recently relocated a contingent of its forces to the al-Shaddadi area from its previous location near the base at al-Tanf. This move was reportedly facilitated by US forces.)
  • 11 JUL: Three westerners were killed while fighting for the Kurdish YPG in the battle for Raqqa this week. On its website, the YPG lists one Briton Luke Rüttling, and Americans Nicholas Warden and Robert Grodt as recent martyrs. (YPG)
  • 11 JUL: Clashes between Assad Coalition forces and ISIS continued on Tuesday near Arak, east of Homs. Pro-government media claimed at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed. Pro-government warplanes targeted nearby ISIS locations and took control of al-Heel gas field. (SANA, Qasioun-AR, Sputnik-AR)

Political

  • 11 JUL: The latest round of the Intra-Syrian talks in Geneva continued today with little fanfare. In an interview with Russian RIA news, UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura reportedly said that Syrian Kurds should be allowed to participate in drafting Syria’s new constitution. (Reuters)
  • 11 JUL: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed it received information confirming the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Pentagon officials and US-led Coalition Spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon could not confirm or corroborate the report, nor could various media sources or Iraqi or Kurdish officials. SOHR said their sources confirmed his death without detailing how or when or where. (VOA, Reuters, Telegraph)
  • 11 JUL: A group of Local Councils from Eastern Ghouta released a statement condemning Jaysh al-Islam’s (JAI) disruptive attacks against Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) and false claims that FAR and contain Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) elements. The signatories include Local Councils from Jobar, Hazzeh, Ein Tarma, Saqba, Zamalka, and Kafra Batna. (Ghouta Media Center FB-AR)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 MAY: DFID report: “Governance in Syria”  – Iffat Idris (GSDRC)
  • 05 JUN: DFID report: “International humanitarian law and human rights violations in Syria” – Iffat Idris (GSDRC)
  • 20 JUN: DFID report: “Stabilisation in Syria” – Iffat Idris (GSDRC)
  • 10 JUL: “The Toll of War: The Economic and Social Consequences of the Conflict in Syria” – World Bank Study (World Bank)
  • 10 JUL: “What Comes After ISIS?” (Foreign Policy)
  • 10 JUL: “ Partner Operations in Syria: Lessons Learned and the Way Forward” – Aaron Stein (Atlantic Council)
  • 11 JUL: “Hundreds of residents return to regime-controlled Homs city after leaving in rebel surrender agreement” – Noura Hourani and Tariq Adely (Syria Direct)
  • 11 JUL: “Secret Details of Trump-Putin Syria Ceasefire Focus on Iranian Proxies” – Column Lynch, Robbie Gramer, Dan De Luce, and Paul McLeary (Foreign Policy)