TSI Syria Update: November 8, 2017

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

Military

  • 7 NOV: Approximately 700 civilians are reportedly still trapped on Hawijat Kate Island in Deir Ezzor city for the fifth consecutive day, where the remaining ISIS fighters refuse to surrender to US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (@DeirEzzor24-AR)
  • 8 NOV: Assad Coalition forces continued to target areas of besieged Eastern Ghouta, launching airstrikes against Saqba, Arbin, Douma, Kafr Batna, Harasta, and Hamouriya in addition to artillery shelling across the enclave. According to local media, chlorine and napalm were used by government forces against Harasta this morning. (RevoSpring-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, @SiegeWatch, Harasta RCFB-AR)  
  • 8 NOV: Assad Coalition forces have reportedly surrounded the border town of Albu Kamal, the last ISIS-held town, after linking up with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Iran-backed militias. Hezbollah and regime media reported the town is seized from ISIS. (AP, Central Military-AR, BBC)
  • 8 NOV: The SDF allegedly seized the town of Markadah from ISIS, and now control a key strategic route connecting Hasakah to Deir Ezzor. (@DeirEzzor24)
  • 8 NOV: Assad Coalition forces reportedly regained control of some of the positions in the eastern Hama countryside that they lost to armed opposition groups earlier this week. (Enab Baladi-AR)

Political

  • 6 NOV: Two new complaints were filed with the German Federal Prosecutor against 17 members of the Syrian government’s Saydnaya, al-Mezzeh, and Aleppo Air Force Intelligence Branch prisons. (ECCHR)
  • 7 NOV: A top advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban, referred to Turkish and US forces in the country as “illegal invaders,” saying the Syrian government “will deal with this issue as we deal with any illegal invader force on our lands.” Shaaban also iterated the Syrian government has not given up on the city of Raqqa, which is currently controlled by the SDF. (Reuters)
  • 7 NOV: In a press briefing yesterday, US Brigadier General Andrew A. Croft stated that ISF and aligned Iran-backed militias will not cross the border into Syria, per the directions of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. General Croft also stated US airstrikes against ISIS have slowed down between 50 to 70 percent. (DOD) (TSI Analyst Note: There are reports that Iran-backed militias have already entered Syria and Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani visited southern Deir Ezzor.)
  • 8 NOV: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with his counterparts from the UK, France, and Germany, released a statement urging the UN to extend the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). According to Reuters the US has amended its initial draft resolution to win Russian support, whose delegation holds veto power on the UN Security Council. (State Dept., Reuters) (TSI Analyst note: This comes after Russia vetoed the extension of the JIM mandate in October. See TSI’s 24 October Update for more background.)
  • 8 NOV: During a news conference, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly said the ISF will continue fighting against ISIS in Syrian territory, saying “we have ordered security forces to deal with any attack even if it came from inside Syrian territory.” This statement contradicts the one given by a US-led Coalition spokesman yesterday. (Al-Arabiya, Andalou)
  • 8 NOV: After pressure from local tribal leaders, the Kurdish Self Administration officials in Tabqa and Manbij reversed their policy on forced military conscription. This comes after Kurdish SDF Forces arrested a dozen men in Manbij on Sunday for conscription purposes before later releasing them. (Syria Direct)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 7 NOV: “Iraq’s intervention may change the equation in Syria’s Kurdish regions” – Fehim Tastekin (Al-Monitor)
  • 8 NOV: “Women at the Forefront of Humanitarian Demining Efforts in Syria” – Alexandra Bradford (Syria Deeply)
  • 8 NOV: “Al-Qaeda versus ISIS: Competing Jihadist Brands in the Middle East” – Charles Lister (MEI)
  • 8 NOV: “Joint Statement on Syria Chemical Weapons by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson” (State Dept)
  • 8 NOV: “Report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fact-Finding Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic regarding an alleged incident in Lataminah, Syrian Arab Republic, 30 March 2017 (S/2017/931) [EN/AR]” (Reliefweb)