TSI Syria Update: September 25, 2017

A brief overview of key military, political, and humanitarian news developments in Syria.

Military

  • Russian planes reportedly bombed US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir Ezzor province on Monday. Russian Major-General Igor Konashenkov denied the claim. US-led Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon said rounds were fired near SDF locations, but did not confirm airstrikes occurred. (Reuters, YPG Rojava, @DefenseUnits, @OIRSpox, RT)
  • Intense pro-government airstrikes, many of them believed to be Russian, rained down on cities and towns across Idlib governorate for the seventh day in a row. Today in the city of Jisr al-Shughor alone, an estimated 17 civilians were killed and 42 injured. In response, armed opposition groups (AOGs) have reportedly launched rocket attacks on Qardaha, Assad’s hometown, killing two civilians. (Reuters, Syria Direct, Jisr al-Shughour Media Center FB-AR, all4syria-AR, Enab Baladi)
  • There was a notable increase in attacks against Eastern Ghouta today, as Assad Coalition forces renewed efforts to advance on multiple fronts, including Jobar/Ein Tarma on the west and the rural al-Hawsh area on the east. (GMC Ghouta FB-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • Several civilians were killed and injured by government artillery fire in opposition-controlled parts of Daraa governorate today. These are the latest in a growing number of violations reported since the 9 June ceasefire agreement reached by Russia, the US, and Jordan. (all4syria-AR, all4syria-AR)
  • The Quneitra Revolutionary Command Council declared an end to the de-escalation agreement in southern Syria due to Assad Coalition forces attacking Jabal al-Sheikh area of Quneitra province. (Quneitra Revolutionary Command Council FB-AR)
  • Russian Lt. General Valery Asapov was killed by ISIS shellfire near Deir Ezzor city on Saturday, becoming the highest-ranking Russian officer to be killed in battle in modern times. On Friday it was reported that another Russian officer, Captain Kurban Gusseinovich Kasumov with the Spetsnaz special forces was killed in early August, but his death was not publicly mentioned by the Ministry of Defense. (DW, CITeam FB, CITeam FB)
  • Hundreds of civilians from an ISIS enclave in Hama and Homs provinces reportedly left the area, after the Syrian government and ISIS reached an evacuation deal last week. (Reuters)

Political

  • The Turkish parliament voted to extend a mandate allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Syria and Iraq for another year. (Reuters)
  • The Netherlands government announced it would contribute €1.5 million to the Syria Investigative Mechanism that is gathering evidence of war crimes committed since 2011. (Netherlands Government)
  • On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu criticized Russia airstrikes against Idlib province as “arbitrary bombing” that risks a repeat of eastern Aleppo city. (Hurriyet, Reuters)
  • The US-backed SDF announced the creation of a governing council for Deir Ezzor, convening tribal and Kurdish leaders on Sunday who named co-chairs and created 15 committees to govern the province. (EA Worldview, ANHA, ANHA) (TSI analyst note: This is a direct challenge by the Kurdish YPG (which dominates the SDF) to the Syrian government – which is trying to reclaim the entire province of Deir Ezzor. It is also a clear attempt to prevent the Syrian opposition (through the Interim Government) from claiming control of the area and to annex Deir Ezzor into the growing Kurdish-dominated Rojava semi-autonomous zone.)
  • On Friday, EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini announced that the EU will hold a second Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region’ in spring of 2018. (EEAS)
  • Russia continues to double down on accusations that the US ground forces and their local partners are cooperating with ISIS in Deir Ezzor. Today the Russian Ministry of Defense published a series of satellite images that it claims show US forces comfortably operating in ISIS strongholds without clashes. (Russian MOD FB)
  • Switzerland opened a war crimes investigation into Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s uncle, Rifaat Assad, for allegedly conducting massacres in Tadmor and Hama in the 1980s. (AFP)
  • Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey, Russia, and Iran are working on setting up a new de-escalation zone in the area around Afrin city in Syria. (TASS)

Humanitarian

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 22 SEP: “The EU to host the second Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” (EEAS)
  • 24 SEP: “All Feasible Precautions? Civilian Casualties in Anti-ISIS Coalition Airstrikes in Syria” (HRW)
  • 24 SEP: “Three Years since International Coalition Forces Intervention started in Syria – The Bloody Price” (SNHR)
  • 25 SEP: “Civil Defense: ‘Life at a complete standstill’ in Khan Sheikhoun after dozens of airstrikes in past week” – Bahira al-Zarier and Tariq Adely (Syria Direct)
  • 25 SEP: “Syrian War Drags On, but Assad’s Future Looks as Secure as Ever” – Ben Hubbard (NYT)