TSI Syria Update: September 28, 2017

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

Military

  • Russian and Syrian airstrikes continued to bombard civilian targets in opposition and HTS-controlled areas of Idlib today. Two airstrikes in al-Rouj Plain area of Idlib reportedly killed eight civilians – all women and children – and injured ten others. (Idlib SCD FB-SY)
  • According to the Russian military, General Asapov – killed in Deir Ezzor by ISIS on Saturday – had been seconded to the Syrian military and was actually leading their Fifth Corps. (Reuters, RBC-RU)
  • Armed opposition group (AOG) fighters from Failaq al-Rahman (FAR) reportedly ambushed pro-government forces three times with large tunnel bombs as they attempted to launch raids on Ein Tarma in Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday and Thursday. FAR claims to have killed 50 pro-government forces in total. This comes amidst ongoing bombardments targeting nearby besieged communities in Eastern Ghouta.  (all4syria-AR, Baladi News-AR, GMC Ghouta-AR)
  • ISIS claimed to have captured two Russian soldiers in Deir Ezzor governorate, but a representative for the Russian Khmeimim airbase denied the claims and said all Russian personnel in Syria are accounted for. (Qasioun-AR, TASS)
  • During a weekly press briefing, Colonel Ryan Dillon said that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control 75% of Raqqa city and they estimate that there are only 400-800 ISIS fighters remaining. (CJTF-OIR FB)

Political

  • The armed opposition group Liwa Shuhuda al-Ghab announced its break from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) due to HTS seizing headquarters and weapons from opposition factions. (translation via @TNTranslations)
  • ISIS released a new undated audio recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi today, in which al-Baghdadi encouraged ISIS fighters to continue to fight. (Reuters)
  • Hamoudeh Sabbagh was elected as speaker of the Syrian parliament, replacing the former Hadiyah Abbas who was removed for “undemocratic behaviors” in July. (TSI 21 JUL Update, AP, SANA)
  • The UN Security Council held consultations on Syria Wednesday afternoon. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura welcomed the Russian-Turkish-Iranian de-escalation zone initiative, and told the Council that he plans to hold another round of Geneva talks in late October or early November. (UNSC, UN OCHA)
  • French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Agnes Romatet-Espagne said France condemns Russia’s airstrikes against civilians in Idlib as violations international humanitarian law, and called on Russia to “respect the commitments made Astana.” (Reuters)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today to discuss establishing a de-escalation zone in Idlib, and missile sales to Turkey. In a press conference after their meeting, Putin and Erdogan announced a new six-month ceasefire for Idlib and northern Hama which should begin at midnight. (Al-Masdar, @AFP, RT YouTube, TASS, Bloomberg) (TSI analyst note: It is unclear how this will be different from previous failed efforts. The nine-day escalation in Russian aerial bombardments of Idlib started just days after the Astana conference where Russia, Turkey, and Iran declared Idlib a de-escalation zone.)
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense denied it killed any civilians in airstrikes against Idlib province this week, claiming it did not even target towns or villages. The Syrian Civil Defense reported that as of yesterday, they had uncovered at least 150 bodies and rescued almost 300 people in the destruction of airstrikes against civilians in Idlib. (Reuters, Russian MOD FB)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 27 SEP: “‘Who Is Looking Out for the Prisoners?’: HRW Director on Syria” – Kenneth Roth (Syria Deeply)
  • 27 SEP: “Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Humanitarian and Political Situation in Syria” – Amb. Nikki Haley (USUN)
  • 27 SEP: “Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock Statement to the Security Council on Syria” (UN OCHA)
  • 27 SEP: “Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien Statement to the Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Syria, 27 July 2017” (ReliefWeb)
  • 27 SEP: “Situation in Syria at High Risk for Backsliding, Special Envoy Tells Security Council, Urging Government, Opposition to Restart Geneva Peace Talks” (UNSC)
  • 27 SEP: “The situation in the Middle East (Syria) – Security Council, 8058th meeting” (UN WebTV)
  • 27 SEP: “De Mistura versus the Commission of Inquiry: Where does the Syrian conflict actually stand?” (SJAC)
  • 28 SEP: “Chasing Justice for Syria: Roadblocks and detours on the path to accountability” (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt)
  • 28 SEP: “Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to Special Envoy for Syria – Media Stakeout” (UN WebTV
  • 28 SEP: “Why is an Islamic State affiliate quietly ruling unchallenged in a corner of Syria’s south?” – Madeline Edwards, Waleed Khaled a-Noufal, Alaa Nassar (Syria Direct)

28 SEP: “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s Lone Path to Survival” – Saleem Al-Omar (Atlantic Council)