TSI Syria Update: August 24, 2017

Takeaway

Pro-government forces launched air and artillery strikes several locations in northern Homs today. In the Houla region, Kafr Laha and Tal Dhahab were targeted, resulting in several civilians deaths and multiple injuries. North of Homs city, the town of Talbiseh was also struck, with local sources reporting at least three civilian deaths. Both Talbiseh and the Houla region are covered under a ceasefire, announced on 3 August by the Russian Defense Ministry, which has done little to stem the violence in the area.

Military

  • 24 AUG: A series of pro-government air and artillery strikes hit the Houla region today, reportedly resulting in at least five deaths and at least nine injuries. The strikes targeted the towns of Kafr Laha and Tal Dhahab. Talbiseh, north of Homs city, was also targeted with artillery strikes. The Houla region and Talbiseh are both purportedly fully covered under a ceasefire agreement announced by Russia on 3 August, but strikes on the area have continued regardless. (Smart News-AR, Step News-AR, Qasioun)
  • 24 AUG: Armed opposition group (AOG) Ahrar al-Sham and pro-government forces exchanged shelling today in northern Latakia and western Idlib provinces. Ahrar announced it had shelled the town of Kansaba in Latakia in response to continued pro-government targeting of civilian populated areas. A statement from Ahrar’s leadership reported, “The regime forces are constantly shelling Haddadah, Tardin, Al-Khadr and al-Toffaheya towns in Latakia countryside, and all opposition factions are responding to the sources of fire and the positions of the regime forces over the mountains of the Syrian coast.” Pro-government forces responded by shelling al-Najeya in western Idlib province. (Qasioun)
  • 24 AUG: Today AOG Abu Amara took credit for the destruction of a Syrian government weapons and ammunition depot belonging to the National Defense Forces in al-Suqailibiya, western Hama province. An Abu Amara statement said the operation was the first time the group had struck outside the city of Aleppo. The destruction of the depot created a large explosion, and reportedly resulted in at least one injury. Local pro-government media outlets reportedly asked civilians not to publish any pictures or videos of the incident. (Qasioun, Step News-AR)
  • 24 AUG: According to a pro-government military source, the Islamic State (ISIS) has asked the Syrian Army and Hezbollah to allow it to withdraw from its positions in the western Qalamoun region to the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. Pro-government forces recently launched an offensive against ISIS in an effort to drive it from the territory along the Syrian/Lebanese border, and have since made notable gains. The military source stated, “Islamic State asked for negotiations and a withdrawal, and the Syrian side and Hezbollah agreed.” The pro-government offensive corresponds to one launched by the Lebanese Army on the other side of the border. No further details on the agreement have been released, and neither the Syrian government nor Hezbollah has made an official statement at the time of writing. (Orient-AR, Reuters)

Political

  • 24 AUG: The UN called for a humanitarian pause in US-led Coalition airstrikes on the city of Raqqa to permit civilians to leave the city. Jan Egeland, a UN humanitarian advisor on Syria, stated, “Now is the time to think of possibilities, pauses or otherwise that might facilitate the escape of civilians, knowing that Islamic State fighters are doing their absolute best to use them as human shields.” Egeland noted that the intense airstrikes and shelling from the US-led Coalition and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) meant that “civilian casualties are large, and there seems to be no real escape for these civilians.” The UN’s call for a pause corresponds with the release of a report on Raqqa from Amnesty International, which states that thousands of civilians in Raqqa are under fire from all sides, and calls on all parties to the conflict to “prioritize protecting them from hostilities and creating safe ways for them to flee the frontline.” (Reuters, Smart News-AR, Amnesty International)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 23 AUG: “Syria – ‘I Won’t Forget This Carnage.’ Civilians Trapped in Battle for Raqqa” – (Amnesty International)
  • 24 AUG: “Does Trump Intend to Thwart Iran’s Ambitions in Syria?” – John Hannah (Foreign Policy)
  • 24 AUG: “Rebel-held Daraa loses lifeline after regime offensive cuts flow of smuggled Islamic State oil,” – Waleed Khaled a-Noufal & Madeline Edwards (Syria Direct)
  • 24 AUG: “Rules for reconstruction in Syria” – Steve Heydemann (Brookings)