TSI Syria Update: October 27, 2017

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

Military

  • 26 OCT: Pro-opposition media claims civilians from the al-Mashlab neighborhood in Raqqa were arrested and wounded by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) while demonstrating against looting by local gangs, while they are denied access to their homes. The SDF say they are clearing the area of IEDs left after the ISIS retreat from the city. (Raqqa24, SDF Press)
  • 27 OCT: Assad Coalition forces are continuing their operations in Deir Ezzor against ISIS, including air and artillery shelling within central neighborhoods. Pro-government media is reporting that Syrian Major General Suheil Al-Hassan was filmed flying over Deir Ezzor governorate, contrary to earlier rumors of his death. (Deir Ezzor24-AR, Al-Masdar)
  • 27 OCT: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) leader Abu Talha al-Ordan was allegedly assassinated with a car bomb near Saraqib city, Idlib on Friday. (Enab Baladi-AR, all4syria-AR, SOHR)
  • 27 OCT: Air and artillery strikes, including the possible use of barrels bombs, intensified in the eastern and northern areas of Hama province on Friday. Allegedly, prayers at local mosques were suspended for fear of providing targets for attacks. (all4syria-AR, @FSAPlatform)
  • 27 OCT: 24 ISIS fighters reportedly surrendered to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northern Hama province. (all4syria-AR, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 27 OCT: Six armed opposition groups (AOG) fighters, including the leader of Jaysh Ahrar al-Ashair, were killed by a roadside bomb in Daraa governorate. (Baladi News-AR, SOHR-AR)

Political

  • 26 OCT: The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) released its findings that “the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of Sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017” in an attack that killed more than 80 people. This is the fourth confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad government. The JIM report also confirmed the use of sulfur mustard gas by ISIS on 26 September 2016 in Um-Housh. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, along with other UN Security Council colleagues, condemned the attacks and attempts to cover-up the report and deny its findings. The Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack led to the US airstrike on al-Shayrat Airbase in April. The full report can be viewed HERE. (BBC, US-UN, UK Foreign Secretary, FR-UN) (TSI Analyst Note: On 24 October, anticipating the Assad government to be responsible for the attacks, Russia vetoed the extension of the OPCW-UN JIM. As the JIM was the only mechanism to determine blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria it is unlikely further investigations will continue, despite substantial evidence of chemical weapons use before and after Khan Sheikhoun.)
  • 26 OCT: After speaking with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that “the United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government.” Tillerson also mentioned that Iran should not be given credit for the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria, saying it has “taken advantage of the situation.” (Reuters, US Embassy Syria)
  • 26 OCT: UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura announced long-stalled Syrian peace talks would resume on 28 November in Geneva. De Mistura told the UN Security Council he hopes the talks scheduled for 30-31 October in Astana will “prevent further unraveling of interim de-escalation and cease-fire arrangements,” expressing interest to shift discussion from conflict management to political solutions. De Mistura also urged the discordant Syrian opposition groups to meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia before the November meeting. (ABC, UNOG)
  • OCT 26:  According to Syrian state news, President Bashar al-Assad intends to hold a national dialogue conference to amend the constitution and hold parliamentary elections. The statement was made after a meeting with Russian Special Envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in preparation for the Astana talks 30-31 October. (SANA, Reuters)
  • 27 OCT: In a statement released today, the negotiating body in besieged al-Houleh region reportedly demanded the suspension of negotiations with the Syrian government after the government refused to release women and children that were arrested in the city of Homs on 23 October. (all4syria-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 27 OCT: American Mohamad Jamal Khweis was sentenced by a federal jury to 20 years in prison for providing material support for ISIS. Khweis traveled to Turkey before crossing the border into Syria, staying with other recruits in Raqqa before surrendering to Kurdish troops in Tal Afar, Iraq. (DoJ)
  • 27 OCT: A group of Syrian female political leaders have launched the Syrian Women’s Political Movement (SWPM). More than 30 Syrian women met in Paris from 22-24 October to establish the vision, principles, and goals of the movement, which aims to enhance women’s participation in the political process and establish the future rights of women in Syrian society. (SWPM founding conference document)

Humanitarian

  • 26 OCT: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) delivered food and medical supplies provided by the UN for 35,000 people in the rural towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem in Damascus governorate. Another shipment of supplies is scheduled for the besieged community of Eastern Ghouta, where approximately 400,000 people require humanitarian assistance.  (Relief Web)
  • 26 OCT: Three year old Mohammad abd al-Salem died of complications from severe malnutrition in the town of Saqba in besieged Eastern Ghouta. Mohammad is the third malnutrition-related death in Eastern Ghouta in the past week. (Ghouta GMC FB-AR, Saqab Medical Office-AR) (TSI Analyst note: The Eastern Ghouta enclave in Rural Damascus has been under siege by the Syrian government and its allies since 2013. Recent intensification of the siege has caused an urgent humanitarian crisis. For more information on Eastern Ghouta and other besieged communities visit Siege Watch)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 25 OCT: “Moscow eyes working with tribes as its next move in Syria” – Anton Mardosov (Al-Monitor)
  • 26 OCT: “Investigating the March 30, 2017 Sarin Attack in Al-Lataminah” (Bellingcat)
  • 26 OCT: “It’s Complicated: The Fate of Idlib with HTS and Russia” – Saleem al-Omar (Syria Source)
  • 26 OCT: “Exclusive: Death certificate offers clues on Russian casualties in Syria” – Maria Tsvetkova (Reuters)
  • 26 OCT: “Syria, the uprising and the media scene” – Joseph Daher (Open Democracy)
  • 26 OCT: Briefing to the Security Council by Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria (UNOG, UN Web TV)
  • 26 OCT: The situation in the Middle East (Syria) – Security Council, 8076th meeting” (UN WebTV)
  • 27 OCT: “CJTF-OIR Monthly Civilian Casualty Report” (CJTF-OIR)
  • 27 OCT: “How much territory have Russia and Syria recaptured from IS?” (BBC)
  • 27 OCT: “Matthew Rycroft (United Kingdom) on Syria and other matters – Media Stakeout (27 October 2017)” (UN WebTV)
  • 27 OCT: “Syria: Suffering of Civilians in Eastern Ghouta “an Outrage” – Zeid” (UNOG)