TSI Syria Update: November 20, 2017

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

Military

  • 19 NOV: In besieged Eastern Ghouta, 15 people were hospitalized due to symptoms of chemical weapons exposure. Clinics associated with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) believe the victims were exposed to phosphorus. According to SAMS, since the Assad Coalition intensified its airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta on 14 November, at least 84 civilians have been killed. (@SiegeWatch, SAMS, Syria Direct)
  • 19 NOV: Pro-government media reported that Assad Coalition forces have captured the majority of Albu Kamal, ISIS’s last remaining urban stronghold.  (Reuters, SOHR) (TSI Analyst Note: The Assad Coalition previously reported their capture of Albu Kamal last week, but were repelled by an ISIS counteroffensive. It is likely the Assad Coalition was dissuade attempting the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from advancing towards the city.)
  • 19 NOV: Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Khayrollah Samadi and lower-ranking fighter Mehdi Movahednia, operating under the Assad Coalition, were reportedly killed last week in Albu Kamal. (Reuters, Radio Free Europe)
  • 19 NOV: Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired a warning tank shot into the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel on Sunday. The IDF claimed Assad Coalition forces violated the ceasefire deal in the Golan Heights by fortifying a military base in the area. (AP, @IDFSpokesperson)
  • 20 NOV: Today, Turkish military forces and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) exchanged fire in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to launch a military campaign against the YPG, which it considers a terrorist organization, in the town of Afrin. This is the first time the groups have clashed in Idlib. (AFP)
  • 20 NOV: US-led Coalition forces and local partner militia Maghawir al-Thawra repelled an ISIS attack that breached the de-confliction zone near al-Tanf, killing nine militants. The US Coalition stated it utilized its de-confliction line with Russia to ensure the attacking forces were not part of the Assad Coalition.  (CJTF-OIR)

Political

  • 19 NOV: Reportedly, a key route linking Damascus and Aleppo will open, exclusively to commercial traffic, for the first time since 2012.  (Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 19 NOV: The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Iran met in a pre-emptive meeting for trilateral talks between the nations’ leaders that will be held on 22 November. The discussions concerned deploying troops as “ceasefire observers” in de-escalation zones in Idlib province, the organization of the previously failed “Congress of National Dialogue,” and the inclusion of Kurdish groups in future opposition meetings. (Sputnik, The Guardian)
  • 20 NOV: Turkish Family Minister Fatma Batul Sayan Kaya requested the EU provide the $143 million of the $943 million it promised the country for Syrian refugee reception. Turkey hosts approximately 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country.  (Hurriyet)
  • 20 NOV: Riyad Hijab, head of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee, resigned today. Hijab’s resignation comes only days before a Saudi-hosted opposition conference in Riyadh. (@MediaPmoffice-AR, AFP) (TSI Analyst Note: It is likely Hijab’s resignation was in protest to Saudi pressure to accept Russia’s opposition platform. Reportedly, other high-ranking opposition leaders resigned today as well, view a partial list here.)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 17 NOV: “Crimes of the Caliphate: Iraqi Shepherd Bears Witness to ISIS Massacre” – Margaret Coker (NYT)
  • 18 NOV: “Marked for ‘De-escalation,’ Syrian Towns Endure Surge of Attacks” – Nada Homsi, Anne Bernard, and Karam Shoumali (NYT)
  • 19 NOV: “ISIS not dead yet but ‘caliphate’ dreams in tatters” – Ali Choukeir and Sarah Benhaida (AFP)
  • 19 NOV: OpEd: “Trump’s Iran Strategy Needs Much Improvement” – Kenneth M. Pollack and Bilal Saab (WSJ)
  • 20 NOV: “What an Unfolding Humanitarian Disaster in a US Protected Enclave Tells Us About American Strategy in Syria” – Sam Heller (War on the Rocks)
  • 20 NOV: “Consumed by War: The End of Aleppo and Northern Syria’s Political Order” (The Aleppo Project)
  • 20 NOV: “Inside Albu Kamal: Will the collapse of IS in Syria strengthen the Iranian influence?” – Feras Kilani (BBC)
  • 20 NOV: “Women in Media” (TIMEP)
  • 20 NOV: “Russia has finished off the UN’s Syria chemical attack probe. What now?” – Aron Lund (IRIN)