TSI Syria Update: October 24, 2017

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

Military

  • 21 OCT: The detainees in Homs central prison ended their hunger strike on Saturday, allegedly due to promises from the Syrian government to end poor conditions in the prison and have the Minister of Justice close terrorism related charges. (Aldorars, Orient News-AR) (TSI Analyst note: Hundreds of political activists have been held in the prison for years without trial. See TSI’s 17 OCT Syria Update for background on the start of the hunger strike.)
  • 23 OCT: At least 22 people were killed in airstrikes in the al-Qusour neighborhood of Deir Ezzor city by unidentified aircraft. Syrian state and local media accused US coalition forces of the attack but US military spokesman Ryan Dillon denied the allegation, noting that only pro-government and Russian forces are operating in the city. (Reuters, @OIRSpox, SOHR)
  • 23 OCT: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) announced a volunteer was killed on Monday in Deir Ezzor city. (SARC)
  • 23 OCT: Airstrikes targeted a base in southern Syria occupied by ISIS-affiliated opposition group Jaysh Khaled Bin Walid killed ten fighters. The airstrikes are suspected to be from Israel. (AFP)
  • 24 OCT: Armed opposition groups (AOGs) launched an attack on Jaysh Khaled Bin Walid in western Daraa where the ISIS-affiliated group has been threatening the village of al-Hayt. (All4syria-AR, SMO-SY-AR)

Political

  • 24 OCT: Today in the Security Council, Russia vetoed the renewal of OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), which is the only mechanism mandated to determine blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. China and Kazakhstan abstained from the vote, and non-veto wielding member Bolivia voted no as well. This is the 9th time Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria. The annual renewal vote comes just days before the JIM is set to release its findings from the deadly sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April. Russia has been working to pre-emptively delegitimize  this report in advance, as expectations are that the JIM will find the Syrian government responsible for the attack. See TSI’s 16 OCT Update for more.  (@SCRtweets, @USUN AP, What’s In Blue, UN, @NabilAbiSaab)
  • 24 OCT: In a speech to members of his Justice and Development (AKP) party, President Erdogan declared Turkey’s military operation in Idlib largely complete. Repeating past grievances, Erdogan also voiced criticism of US support of Kurdish YPG fighters in the Raqqa operation against ISIS. The city of Afrin, currently held by the YPG, was cited by Erdogan as the next target for Turkish troops in Syria. (Reuters, Daily Sabah)
  • 24 OCT: Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated armed opposition groups, in conjunction with Turkish forces, announced a unification deal, rebranding themselves as the “National Army.” Per the agreement, border crossings in the Turkish-held Euphrates Shield area of Northern Syria will also be facilitated by the FSA. This summer FSA leaders voiced interest in a more unified command structure. (Aleppo Today TV, @MustafaSejari-AR) (TSI Analyst note: There have been mentions of a unified national army for the Syrian AOGs circulating since this summer.)
  • 24 OCT: Turkish military sources reportedly said they plan to install eight military bases in Idlib, including locations at  Sheikh Barakat, Taftanaz Airbase, and Abu al-Duhur Airbase. The new bases are allegedly an extension of the tripartite Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia, and Iran. (MEMO)

Humanitarian

  • 24 OCT: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) evacuated a humanitarian case from Douma in besieged Eastern Ghouta. SARC transferred a man with Down’s Syndrome to Damascus, where he was reunited with his mother. (@SYRedCrescent)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 24 OCT: “FSA rebels: We would have won if not for Iran” – Ali Younes and Shafik Mandhai (Al Jazeera)
  • 24 OCT: “Health Crisis Looms Over Eastern Ghouta” – Hasan Arfeh (Syria Source)
  • 24 OCT: “After holiday visit to the homeland, thousands of Syrians decide to stay for good” – Noura Hourani and Avery Edelman (Syria Direct)
  • 24 OCT: “Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees” (The Soufan Center)
  • 24 OCT: “Secrets of the Black Stadium: In Raqqa, Inside ISIS’ House of Horror” – Wladimir van Wilgenburg (The Daily Beast)
  • 24 OCT: “Eastern Ghouta siege: The worst it has ever been” – Lizzie Porter (Al Jazeera)