TSI Syria Update: November 28, 2017

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

Military

  • 28 NOV: Reportedly, Russia informed UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura that the Syrian government agreed to a 28-29 November ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta. However, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov backtracked on the deal, stating that “an operation against terrorists goes on, there is no way to make a ceasefire agreement with [ISIS].” (Reuters, Ruptly video, TASS) (TSI Analyst Note: ISIS is not present in Eastern Ghouta.)
  • 28 NOV: Despite discussions of a ceasefire brokered by Russia, the Syrian government launched six airstrikes on the town of Hamouriya in besieged Eastern Ghouta. The strikes killed three civilians – two of whom were children – and set a warehouse of lumber on fire. Government forces also shelled the communities of Jobar, Jisreen, Harasta, Douma, Hosh al-Dawahira, and Arbin. (@SiegeWatch, RevoSpring-AR)
  • 28 NOV: The Turkish National Security Council advised the deployment of Turkish troops around the Kurdish-held town of Afrin. There are unconfirmed reports that Turkey and Russia could work together to establish 17 joint checkpoints around the city. This news comes as Kurdish YPG media claimed Turkish forces shelled areas north of the city. (@DefenseUnits, @metesohtaoglu, Reuters)

Political

  • 28 NOV: The Syrian government’s negotiating delegation will reportedly arrive in Geneva on Wednesday, a day after the start of scheduled UN-backed talks. The opposition’s Syrian Negotiation Commission (formerly the High Negotiation Committee) held an initial meeting with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, and announced they were ready for direct talks with the Syrian government for the first time. De Mistura reportedly pledged there would be no discussion of the opposition’s “Riyadh statement,” which voiced support for the removal of Assad from power. (Reuters, @SyrianHNC_en, Sana, Naharnet) (TSI analyst note: De Mistura’s pledge not to discuss the “Riyadh statement was likely needed to get the Syrian government to agree to attend the Geneva talks. The Syrian government and Russia have been trying to reframe the idea of “political transition” called for in UN Security Council Resolution 2165, to keep Assad in power.)
  • 28 NOV: According to the Kremlin, there is no set date for the Syrian People’s Congress sponsored by Russia. Most mainstream opposition groups have denounced the event, and Turkey raised concerns about the inclusion of Kurdish parties. (Reuters)
  • 28 NOV: The Syrian Media Organization (SMO-SY), a major pro-revolution media site, has announced that it will close today after four years of reporting. (Syrian SMO FB-AR, Al Dorar-AR)
  • 28 NOV: Ten Syrian human rights organizations declined invitations to attend the Civil Society Support Room (CSSR) at the UN-hosted negotiations in Geneva this week. The organizations cited the lack of prior organization and discussion framework as reasons they will not attend. They also criticized the UN for not publishing substantive updates on the CSSR in their periodic briefs. (VDC)
  • 28 NOV: After several former high ranking members of extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) with ties to al-Qaeda-affiliated were arrested yesterday, multiple HTS members threatened to resign in protest and called for an internal mediation process. (SITE, HJS, @IbnNabih1)
  • 28 NOV: The FBI has opened a case on the murder of Syrian-American opposition activist and journalist Hala Barakat and her mother Oruba. The two were murdered in their apartment in Istanbul in September. The FBI offered assistance to the Turkish National Police on the case, but they declined the offer and stated they have a suspect in custody. (ABC)

Humanitarian

  • 28 NOV: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent, in conjunction with the UN, delivered humanitarian aid for an estimated 7,200 people to the besieged community of Nashabiyeh. This is the first aid delivery to reach Eastern Ghouta since 12 November, and only the second to reach the community since 2013. (@SYRedCrescent, @OCHA_Syria, AFP)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 27 NOV: “MSF calls for respect for healthcare and an urgent resupply of medical essentials” (MSF)
  • 27 NOV: “Briefing to the UN Security Council by the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura” (UNOG)
  • 27 NOV: OpEd “A hug that says volumes about the situation in Syria” – (WaPo)
  • 28 NOV: “Thousands of foreign troops in Syria…but will they leave?” – Zeina Karam (AP)
  • 28 NOV: “Displaced people from Raqqa, Deir e-Zor strain limited resources in northern Syrian camps” – Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim and Maria Nelson (Syria Direct)
  • 28 NOV: “Has Trump Ditched the Kurdish Fighters Who Defeated ISIS? Maybe Not.” – Wladimir van Wilgenburg (The Daily Beast)
  • 28 NOV: “Setting Priorities: Getting the Cart and Horse in Order on US-Syria Policy” – Seth Hershberger (Atlantic Council)
  • 28 NOV: “The Russian Offensive in Syria You Haven’t Heard About” (Coda Story)