TSI Syria Update: October 18, 2017

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

Military

  • 18 OCT: A senior Syrian army commander, Brig. Gen. Issam Zahreddine, was killed today by a mine explosion in Deir Ezzor city. Zahreddine has been implicated in several massacres dating back to 2012, and was most recently known for threatening Syrian refugees not to return to the country. (Al-Arabiya, The Daily Star)
  • 18 OCT: US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) started clearing roads and demining in Raqqa city on Wednesday. After demining, the US and Coalition partners plan to help restore basic services to the city. (AP, State Department)
  • 18 OCT: Opposition group Jaysh al-Ababil clashed with ISIS today between Yalda and Yarmouk in the besieged southern suburbs of Damascus. (RevoSpring-AR)
  • 18 OCT: Assad Coalition forces clashed with opposition groups in the Beit Jin area of western rural Damascus today. Pro-government helicopters targeted the area with strikes. (all4syria-AR, Smart News-AR, @LccSy-AR)

Political

  • 17 OCT: US-led Coalition spokesperson Brett McGurk visited Raqqa for several meetings about reconstruction as the US-led Coalition and its SDF partners declared victory over ISIS. The three meetings were reportedly held with the SDF-backed Raqqa Local Council, a reconstruction committee, and local elders. Saudi Minister Thamer al-Sabhan was also in attendance. (@vvanwilgenburg, Smart News-AR, SDF Press-AR)
  • 18 OCT: Turkish authorities reopened the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in Idlib province, allowing Turkish goods to directly enter Idlib. Civilians are not yet allowed to use the crossing. (Syria Direct, all4syria-AR)
  • 18 OCT: During a visit to Damascus, Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri said Israel should not violate the land or airspace of Syria. He also said Iran’s presence in Syria is to confront common enemies “the Zionists and terrorists.” (Reuters, Sana)
  • 18 OCT: Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu allegedly rejected an Israeli request to create a 40 km buffer zone along the Israel-Syria border, but agreed to expand the buffer zone from 5 km to 10-15 km in which Russia would prevent Iranian and Hezbollah forces from approaching the border. (JPost)
  • 18 OCT: US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said she will circulate a draft resolution for the renewal of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Joint Investigative Mechanism (OPCW-JIM) which investigates chemical weapons use in Syria and is set to expire in November. Haley said Russia plans to not support the JIM’s renewal if the upcoming report due next week on the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack blames the Syrian government, laying the stage for a diplomatic showdown. (Reuters, @NabilAbiSaab)
  • 18 OCT: UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in Moscow today to discuss stabilizing Syria. (Russian MOD FB)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 17 OCT: “What next for Raqqa?” – Nadim Houry (Just Security)
  • 17 OCT: “Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Briefs Reporters” (Dvidshub)
  • 17 OCT: “A Life of Exile: The Continued Suffering of Syrian IDPs” – Hasan Arfeh (Atlantic Council)
  • 18 OCT: “Raqqa: Only those who are out of touch would say ISIL has been vanquished” – Hassan Hassan (The National)
  • 18 OCT: “International airstrikes and civilian casualty claims in Iraq and Syria – September 2017” – Alex Hopkins and Samuel Oakford (Airwars)
  • 18 OCT: “Syria war: Raqqa free, devastated and empty” – Matt Brown (ABC)
  • 18 OCT: “Save the Children Statement on Recapture of Raqqa” (Save the Children)
  • 18 OCT: “Analysis: The Political Impasse Over Syria’s Disappeared” – Nicola Cutcher (Syria Deeply)
  • 18 OCT: “In the Rubble of Raqqa, Victory Over ISIS, But an Uncertain Future for the City” – Wladimir Van Wilgenburg (The Daily Beast)
  • 18 OCT: “Al-Qaida set to gain as Islamic State disintegrates” – Bassem Mroue and Qassim Abdul-Zara (AP)
  • 18 OCT: “The Islamic State Is Collapsing, but Raqqa Is in Ruins” – Aron Lund (The Century Foundation)
  • 18 OCT: “A trip through horror, confusion and contradictions in Syria” – Molly Hennessy-Fiske (LA Times)
  • 18 OCT: “Hazardous Legacies: An Open-Source Overview of the Destruction of Deir ez-Zor’s Oil Industry” – Wim Zwijnenburg (Bellingcat)