TSI Syria Update: November 6, 2017

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

Military

  • 5 NOV: Reportedly, an ISIS car bomb killed over 100 displaced civilians fleeing violence in Deir Ezzor near the Conoco oil plant. (Al-Jazeera, SOHR-AR)
  • 5 NOV: Local media and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reported displaced civilians are now returning to their homes in the al-Mashlab neighborhood of Raqqa city after a de-mining campaign. (ALRaggaTruth FB-AR, @airwars, SDF Press)
  • 6 NOV: According to local sources, the Assad Coalition announced over speakers that civilians and ISIS forces trapped on Hawijat Kate Island in Deir Ezzor city have 24 hours to surrender or they will be targeted. On Friday, the civilians brokered an evacuation deal with SDF on the opposite side of the island, but ISIS forces refused to cooperate with the terms of surrender. (@DeirEzzor24)
  • 6 NOV: The SDF reportedly arrested nearly 100 men between ages of 18 and 31 as part of the group’s recent conscription efforts in Manbij. Residents in Manbij, Jarablus, and Azaz protested the decision pertaining to Manbij after it was announced on Sunday. The SDF subsequently released a statement blaming the protesters on Turkey and the Baath party. (Enab Baladi-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, Smart News-AR, Aleppo24, @24Aleppo)
  • 6 NOV: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Assad Coalition forces continued to clash outside the city of Hama for the eighth consecutive day. (Enab Baladi-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 6 NOV: Reportedly, Iraqi jets provided air support to Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in their operations against ISIS in Albu Kamal. (Asharq al-Awsat) (TSI Analyst note: The PMF are Iran-backed Iraqi militias).
  • 6 NOV: Local media reports the SDF seized control of four villages east of Deir Ezzor city, as both US-led SDF forces and the Assad Coalition push toward the last remaining ISIS urban stronghold of Albu Kamal.  (Enab Baladi-AR, Deir Ezzor24-AR)

Political

  • 4 NOV: US President Donald Trump could potentially speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit next week in Vietnam, according to a Kremlin spokesperson. Reportedly, the State Department’s Middle East staff hope the meeting may flesh out an expansion of de-escalation zones in Syria and affirm Russia’s commitment to the Geneva process, while government Russia experts and some White House staff believe Putin is not committed to pressuring Assad into a political settlement.  (Reuters, Buzzfeed)
  • 5 NOV: The the Russian-hosted Syrian “Congress of National Dialogue” has been postponed, according to Turkish spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. Turkey immediately objected to the conference, as did most of the mainstream Syrian opposition,. Kalin also clarified they will likely send an observer to the future meeting, and Russia had assured the Turkish delegation the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) would not attend.  (AFP, Reuters, Al-Sharq al-Awsat-AR)
  • 5 NOV: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implied Iran is trying to dock its submarines at Syria’s ports. (Haaretz, BBC)
  • 6 NOV: US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said he backs the diplomatic efforts of the Geneva process to end the war in Syria. Mattis stated that “Secretary Tillerson engaged strongly with Staffan de Mistura” and the focus is now how to “get the UN engaged on a way forward.” Mattis is currently traveling through Europe to meet with European allies and will host a meeting of ministers from the US-led Coalition sometime during 8-9 November in Brussels. (Reuters, DOD)
  • 6 NOV: The US-led Coalition announced it would reduce its number of “strike releases” to twice a week in accordance with “current operational tempo.” The number of US airstrikes significantly decreased in October, as ISIS’s territorial control on the Syria-Iraq border has diminished. (CJTF-OIR)

Humanitarian

  • 6 NOV: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) evacuated four-year-old Ebtisam from Douma to a hospital in Damascus. (@SYRedCrescent)
  • 6 NOV: The Syrian Civil Defence and the Pharmacists Association of Eastern Ghouta both released statements urging the opening of humanitarian crossing for the besieged communities of Eastern Ghouta. (@SCDrifdamashq, @Elizrael)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 4 NOV: OpEd “After ISIS, What Comes Next?” (NYTimes)
  • 4 NOV: “In This Sign They Will Conquer? – Christian Militias in the Syrian Conflict” – Pascal Andresen (Bellingcat)
  • 6 NOV: “The State of Rojava: A month-long reporting series from Syria Direct” – Justin Clark and Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim (Syria Direct)
  • 6 NOV: “The Messaging App Fueling Syria’s Insurgency” – Adam Rawnsley, Eric Woods, and Christiaan Triebert (Foreign Policy)
  • 6 NOV: “Reverse Engineering Russia’s Propaganda to Find Putin’s Weaknesses in Syria – Patrik Hilsman (EA Worldview)
  • 6 NOV: OpEd: “Chemical Weapons Investigations in Syria Must Continue” – Rogelio Pfirter (Syria Deeply)
  • 6 NOV: “Seventh report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism S/2017/904” (UN)
  • 7 NOV: “Cyber armies, info wars and fake news add to Syria’s suffering.” – Matt Wade (Sydney Morning Herald)