TSI Syria Update: August 15, 2017

Takeaway

Heavy fighting persisted in Raqqa city today as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued its offensive against ISIS. The SDF reported that within the last 24 hours, roughly 100 ISIS fighters had been killed across the city, indicating a potential escalation in the fighting. ISIS responded with multiple suicide attacks on the southern, eastern, and western fronts. The US-led Coalition continued to provide support with both air and artillery strikes, reportedly resulting in more than 20 civilian casualties.

Military

  • 14 AUG: The Assad Coalition advanced in eastern Homs governorate along the al-Sukhneh-al-Rasafah highway, capturing the town of al-Koum, 25 km north of al-Sukhneh, from Islamic State (ISIS). If Assad Coalition forces capture the remaining ISIS-controlled area between al-Koum and al-Sukhneh, they can encircle an ISIS pocket that extends from Hama governorate to administrative border between Raqqa and Homs governorates. (Reuters, Al-Masdar)
  • 15 AUG: Intense fighting between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS continued in Raqqa city today. The SDF reported it had killed nearly 100 ISIS fighters across the city within the last 24 hours, and ISIS responded with multiple SVBIED attacks. Fighting occurred in six districts in Raqqa including al-Mansour and al-Rawda, near the Old City, and al-Bareed and al-Nahda in the Eastern parts of the city. Local media reported that ISIS suicide attacks targeted SDF positions in al-Roumaniyeh and Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik districts. Meanwhile, more than 20 civilians were reportedly killed due to US-led Coalition airstrikes and SDF artillery attacks. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 50,000 civilians remain trapped in Raqqa living in difficult conditions with limited access to water, fresh fruits and vegetables and medicine. (Baladi News-AR, Enab baladi-AR, Ara News-AR, @24Raqqa, @SiegeWatch)
  • 15 AUG: ISIS fighters launched a counterattack against Assad Coalition forces in eastern Raqqa governorate today, capturing the area between Ma’dan and Ghanem al-Ali, which ISIS had lost in recent days. Four ISIS suicide attacks reportedly targeted pro-government forces in the town of Ghanem al-Ali. (SOHR-AR, 7al-AR)
  • 15 AUG: The Assad Coalition continued its assault on Eastern Ghouta today, targeting the towns of Hazzeh, Harasta, and Ein Tarma with artillery and ground-to-ground missiles. Two civilians were reportedly injured from the shelling in Ein Tarma. (Ghouta Media Center FB-AR, Ghouta Media Center FB-AR, Ghouta Media Center FB-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 15 AUG: Opposition group Osoud al-Sharqiya reported it shot down a Syrian government jet near Wadi Mahmoud in southern Syria near the Jordanian border. The pilot survived the crash, and is said to be in opposition custody. The area has recently been the site of violent clashes between armed opposition groups and pro-government forces. Last week pro-government forces launched a large-scale assault along the Syrian-Jordanian border, with opposition groups attempting to halt this advance. The downing of the government jet today reportedly corresponded with a counter-attack launched by opposition groups, including Osoud al-Sharqiya, aimed at reversing recent pro-government gains. (@osoudalshrqia, @osoudalsharqia, Reuters, Smart News-AR, Qasioun)
  • 15 AUG: Israeli satellite imagery released today revealed the construction of what is believed to be a Scud missile factory in Wadi Jahannam near the city of Baniyas. Based on the images, construction of the facility began sometime last year, and will reportedly continue until the end of this year. Israeli intelligence analysts have claimed that the resemblance of this new facility to an existing one in Iran suggests some level of Iranian involvement. (Jerusalem Online, Zaman Al-Wasl)

Political

  • 15 AUG: Qatar has reportedly cut some of its funding to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), headquartered in Turkey. Opposition-media reported that the SNC fired a large number of its employees, while reducing the salaries of many others. This development comes one week after the Syrian Interim Government, announced it would cease to pay the salary of its employees as of 1 August. (Enab Baladi-AR, Al-Sharq al-Awsat)
  • 15 AUG: Iranian chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri arrived in Ankara today for talks with Turkish political figures, including President Recep Erdogan and Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli. The discussions will reportedly focus on resolving differences regarding the Syrian conflict and establishing better regional coordination. (Al-Arabiya, Daily Sabah)
  • 15 AUG:  A delegation of Israeli officials are scheduled to visit Washington DC this week to discuss Israel’s security concerns regarding Syria and Lebanon. The delegation will meet with US national security adviser, H.R. McMaster; the deputy national security adviser, Dina Power; and special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt. (JTA)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • AUG: “Why Ahrar al-Sham Couldn’t Stand Up To HTS’ Attack in Idlib” – Haid Haid (Chatham House)
  • AUG: “Arab Youth Survey 2017” – (AYS 2017)
  • 14 AUG: “Turkey Might Seek More Than Mere Reconstruction in Northern Syria” – Metin Gurcan (Al-Monitor)
  • 15 AUG: “Syrian Government Will Not Return To Raqqa, Top Official Says” – Wladimir van Wilgenburg” (The Region)
  • 15 AUG: New order on the border: Can foreign aid get past Syria’s jihadis?” – Aron Lund (IRIN News)