TSI Syria Update: November 7, 2017

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

Military

  • 6 NOV: According to the Ministry of Defense, four Russian journalists and five soldiers were injured by an IED explosion in Deir Ezzor city. (Deir Ezzor24, RT) (TSI Analyst Note: A leaked document from last month showed at least 131 Russian citizens were killed in Syria this year, a figure much higher than reports from the Ministry of Defense.)
  • 7 NOV: Reportedly, Russian airstrikes hit a power station, cutting off more than 70 percent of the electricity in the eastern Hama countryside and parts of Idlib. According to local reports, the airstrikes are part of with the Assad Coalition efforts to capture Abu ad-Duhur Airbase. (Enab Baladi-AR, Smart News-AR)
  • 7 NOV: Assad Coalition forces continued targeting the besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave with airstrikes and shelling today. The attacks killed at least seven people (three of them children), and targeted Saqba, Douma, Ein Tarma, Kafr Batna, Hazzeh, Misraba, and areas of al-Marj. (@SiegeWatch, Smart News-AR)

Political

  • 5 NOV: Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Bashar al-Assad, was a shareholder in four Lebanese companies listed in the recently published Paradise Papers leak of offshore holdings. (ICIJ)
  • 6 NOV: The Syrian Center for Anti-Extremist Ideology opened in opposition-controlled Marea last week. The Center provides counseling and psychological services for Islamic State (ISIS) prisoners and defectors. (Al-Monitor, Syrian Center FB)
  • 6 NOV: The Syrian Interim Government’s Ministry of Defense released a statement condemning the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for arresting and forcibly conscripting young men in Manbij yesterday. (@TNTranslations)
  • 7 NOV: At the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Syria announced it would join the Paris climate agreement. The US is now the only country in the world not to sign on to the accords. (The Independent)
  • 7 NOV: Israel arrested seven Druze residents of the Golan Heights for rioting during protests in support of the Syrian Druze town of Hader, which recently saw fighting between Assad Coalition forces and opposition group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Reportedly, one of the men arrested breached a security fence and crossed the border into Syria. See TSI’s 3 November update for background. (Al-Monitor)
  • 7 NOV: The UN Security Council was briefed this afternoon on the recent OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) report on the Umm Hawsh and Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks. Afterwards the EU released a statement that it is considering further sanctions against the Syrian government. (What’s In Blue?, WebTV, EU)
  • 7 NOV: The Asayish – a police/internal security force associated with the Kurdish YPG – reportedly stormed the headquarters of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) today during the group’s fourth annual conference in Qamishli. The Asayish shut down the conference, claiming the KNC did not have the proper authorization to hold such a meeting. (Enab Baladi-AR) (TSI Analyst note: The KNC is a minority political Kurdish party that is facing increasing repression from the YPG/PYD, which is consolidating power. The YPG makes up the primary component the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and has been greatly empowered by US intervention)
  • 7 NOV: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Sochi conference had not been postponed because the date had not yet been set. (AFP) (TSI Analyst Note: The Russian government announced the date for the Sochi conference, but later removed the details for the conference, likely due to the pushback from Turkey over the invitation of Kurdish groups. Yesterday a Turkish official announced that it had been postponed.)
  • 7 NOV: According to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Raqqa Civil Council released 86 individuals who were forced to work with ISIS in non-combatant roles. The Council said their goal is “forgiveness and amnesty,” noting there would be similar releases in the future. (SDF Press-AR)
  • 7 NOV: In a meeting with Iranian senior advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the war in Syria does not end with the liberation of Deir Ezzor from ISIS. Assad iterated that Syria is in a war against territorial fragmentation and “terrorism and the countries backing it.” (Reuters, Sana)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 6 NOV: “Syria’s Arab, Kurdish women join forces to fight for future” – Amberin Zaman (Al-Monitor)
  • 6 NOV: “No easy way out of reconstructing Raqqa” – Brian Reeves and Tamara Coffman Wittes (Brookings)
  • 6 NOV: “Artillery strikes against ISIS in Syria were so intense they burned out 2 Marine howitzers” – Christopher Woody (Business Insider)
  • 6 NOV: “Is the Jihadi Drug Moving Out of Syria?”  – Rhys Dubin and Jana Winter (FP)
  • 6 NOV: “No Justice for Khan Sheikhoun” – Aron Lund (The Century Foundation)
  • 6 NOV: “Fall Of Raqqa Delivers Sharp Blow To Islamic State’s Media Operation” – Samantha Raphelson (NPR)
  • 7 NOV: “In Daraa, getting your house back is subject to negotiation” – Warda al-Yassin (Al-Jumhuriyah)
  • 7 NOV: “Women in Local Security Forces” (TIMEP)
  • 7 NOV: “Russia in Syria: A course strewn with obstacles” – Stephen Blank (Lowy Institute)
  • 7 NOV: “Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the use of chemical weapons in Syria”  (EU)