TSI Syria Update: October 16, 2017

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

Military

  • 15 OCT: There are reports that several hundred ISIS fighters evacuated Raqqa city under a deal with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Saturday night, and another 300 on Sunday. The US-led Coalition released a statement on Saturday saying that it was not involved in the agreement but “believes it will save innocent lives.” The final push to defeat the remaining ISIS fighters in Raqqa began on Sunday. (@24Raqqa, @24Raqqa, Reuters, Inherent Resolve, YPG, Reuters)
  • 16 OCT: On Monday, Israeli jets struck a Syrian government anti-aircraft battery after it fired at Israeli jets during a reconnaissance mission the Syria-Lebanon border. The Syrian military claimed it hit one of the Israeli jets, but the Israeli military denied their jets had been hit. (Al-Jazeera, Reuters, SANA)
  • 16 OCT: According to pro-government media, Assad Coalition forces took full control of al-Mayadin on Saturday, just nine days after announcing the start of an offensive to take the city from ISIS. (Syria Direct) (TSI Analyst note: The relatively weak resistance in al-Mayadin suggests that ISIS decided to make a strategic withdrawal, potentially for a final stand in Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border.)
  • 16 OCT: Pro-government forces have reportedly deployed on the roof of Homs Central Prison and cut water and power while threatening to storm into the building and kill the prisoners. The prisoners are in control of the inside of the prison and have been resisting demands by pro-government forces to hand over hundreds of political prisoners. (All4syria-AR)
  • 16 OCT: A child and her grandmother were killed in Syrian government airstrikes on the town of al-Hazzeh in besieged Eastern Ghouta.  They were two of a number of civilians killed and injured in pro-government shelling and airstrikes that targeted besieged communities across Eastern Ghouta and Jobar today. (GhoutaGMC FB-AR) (TSI Analyst note: This escalation indicates a failure of the de-escalation agreement negotiated by Russia several months ago.)
  • 16 OCT: Airstrikes and shelling targeted civilian residential areas of Talbiseh today in besieged northern Homs. (Talbisa YouTube-AR) (TSI Analyst note: This escalation indicates a failure of the recent de-escalation agreement negotiated by Russia.)

Political

  • 14 OCT: Supporters of the Syrian opposition organized an international “Day of Rage” on Saturday, which was marked by protests across Syria and in Europe. (Etilaf, SyrianRebels Reddit)
  • 14 OCT: The Syrian government demanded Turkish troops withdraw from Syria, calling their deployment a “blatant aggression” against Syria’s sovereignty. (Reuters, SANA)
  • 16 OCT: The Russian UN representative conducted a briefing on Russia’s views of chemical weapons use in Syria. The briefing calling into question the validity of the work of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), tasked with identifying the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria. (Russian FM) (TSI Analyst note: The briefing appears to be an effort to preemptively de-legitimize the JIM findings in advance of their report on the April Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks, expected on 26 October.)

Humanitarian

  • 15 OCT: UNHCR delivered aid to the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun, which was previously depopulated during a government scorched earth campaign and forced population transfer. (@UNHCRinSYRIA) (TSI Analyst note: It is unclear how many people are in Qaboun or where they came from, they are unlikely to be the original inhabitants.)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 12 SEP: “The Syrian Crisis: A reckoning and a road map” – Itamar Rabinovich (Brookings)
  • 12 OCT: “JCPOA or Assad? Capillary vs Artery” – Frederic C. Hof (Atlantic Council)
  • 13 OCT: “Interpreting the Fall of Islamic State Governance” – Aron Zelin (Washington Institute)
  • 13 OCT: “Deeply Talks: Syria’s Border with Jordan” – Hashem Osseiran, Alessandria Masi, and Kim Bode (Syria Deeply)
  • 13 OCT: “Nearly 370,000 IDPs in Deir Ez-Zour and Raqqa in the wake of the Syrian-Russian Alliance Attacks” (SNHR)
  • 15 OCT: “Factbox – Battle for Raqqa, Islamic State’s Syrian HQ near end” (Reuters)
  • 15 OCT: “Tahrir al-Sham official on Turkey’s intervention to implement Astana: ‘That’s not the reality’” – Sam Heller (Abu al-Jamajem)
  • 16 OCT: “To beat jihadists, anti-IS Syria force goes back to basics” – Maya Gebeily (AFP)