TSI Syria Update: October 20, 2017

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

Military

  • 19 OCT: Pro-government media is reporting that the US-backed Kurdish forces fighting under the mantle of the SDF have transferred control of the Conoco gas field in Deir Ezzor to Russian forces. (Al Masdar News) (TSI Analyst note: The SDF is in Deir Ezzor with the backing of US forces and airpower, and if confirmed, the handover of critical infrastructure to pro-government forces marks an unprecedented policy shift on the part of the US. The Conoco gas field is the largest in Syria, and the SDF has recently accused Russia of bombing its forces there.)
  • 19 OCT: Russian airstrikes killed at least 16 civilians near Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzor province as they tried to cross the Euphrates river to flee fighting. (MEE, Step News-AR)
  • 20 OCT: ISIS forces attacked a hospital and school in the Yarmouk/Yalda/Tadamon area of the besieged southern Damascus suburbs during Friday prayers, leading to heavy clashes with armed opposition groups (AOGs) in the area. Abu al-Fadl, the leader of the local Jaysh al-Islam unit, was killed in the fighting. The crossing between ISIS-controlled Yarmouk and AOG controlled Yalda remains closed for the third day. (RevoSpring-AR, Revospring-AR, All4syria-AR)
  • 20 OCT: Heavy shelling by pro-government forces killed a 10 year old boy in Kafr Batna, in besieged Eastern Ghouta, and injured dozens. Heavy shelling continued to target Jobar and Ein Tarma, where members of Failaq al-Rahman reportedly ambushed a group of pro-government forces overnight. (@SiegeWatch, @FSAPlatform, GhoutaGMC FB-AR)
  • 20 OCT: The hunger strike in Homs central prison continued today. The detainees allegedly refused to meet with Homs Governor Talal Barazi, but wish to speak with a Russian delegation. (Step News-AR, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 20 OCT: According to pro-opposition media reports, Russian helicopters landed at the Menagh Military Airport south of Azaz city in territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Aleppo province, and a Russian-Turkish delegation toured communities on the frontlines between SDF (YPG) and Turkey-backed AOG control. (Step News-AR, Enab Baladi-AR)

Political

  • 19 OCT: Kurdish YPG fighters who make up the bulk of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) celebrated the liberation of Raqqa city by gathering in al-Naim Square, where they hung a large picture of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and dedicated the victory to him. When asked about this Ocalan dedication during a press conference, Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said only that the US would “continue to work by, with and through the SDF to ensure that we defeat ISIS.” (MEE, YPG Rojava, DOD) (TSI Analyst note: The YPG claims it is independent from the PKK, which is recognized by the US as a terrorist organization.)
  • 19 OCT: Brazil has announced that it plans to reopen its embassy in Damascus and reestablish diplomatic ties with the Syrian government. Brazil recalled its diplomatic staff in 2012 in response to the Syrian government’s violent crackdown on civilians. The government of Brazil hopes that reestablishing ties now will help Brazilian firms gain reconstruction contracts. (Bloomberg)
  • 20 OCT: The US-backed SDF released a statement today officially announcing the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa city, and the handover of administrative control to the Raqqa Civil Council. The statement said that the SDF would secure the borders of the governorate as part of a “decentralized federal democracy in which the people of the province manage their own affairs.” (SDF Press) (TSI Analyst note: The democratic federal system referred to is a reference to Rojava, the semi-autonomous Kurdish zone that has been established in three cantons across much of northern Syria.)
  • 20 OCT: Iranian General Mohammad Baqeri reportedly visited a frontline near Aleppo city. (Reuters)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 20 OCT: Op-Ed: “Syria: The Myth of a Regime Victorious” – Gareth Bayley (Asharq Al-Awsat)
  • 20 OCT: “Salafis at war in Syria” – Thomas Pierret (University of Edinburgh)
  • 20 OCT: “Syrian Reconstruction Spells Juicy Contracts for Russian, Iranian Firms” – Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian (FP)
  • 20 OCT: “Raqqa’s Liberation From ISIS” – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (State Dept)
  • 20 OCT: “Russia: Don’t Veto Extension of Syria Inquiry” (Human Rights Watch)