TSI Syria Update: December 1, 2017

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

Military

  • 1 DEC: Fighting continues around Beit Jinn, as pro-opposition media reported the downing of an Assad Coalition helicopter with military leadership onboard. Fighting has recently intensified around Beit Jinn, which is a semi-besieged opposition enclave near the Golan Heights that is surrounded by Assad Coalition forces. (HFL, EA Worldview, Enab Baladi, @FSAPlatform)
  • 1 DEC: Today, the Russian Defense Ministry said it bombed ISIS targets in Deir Ezzor governorate. Subsequently, civilians were reportedly killed by Russian airstrikes in al-Tawatha. (Reuters, Russian Defense Ministry FB, SNHR)
  • 1 DEC: The Sharia Committee in Daraa city canceled Friday prayers for the fourth week in a row due to shelling, despite being part of a ceasefire zone. (Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 1 DEC: Unmanned aerial drones dropped bombs on Jobar and Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta. (@SiegeWatch, GMC-AR)
  • 1 DEC: According to local sources, the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces recaptured the town of Abu Hammam in Deir Ezzor from ISIS with the help of US-led Coalition air support. Today, the US military announced it conducted multiple air strikes in Deir Ezzor over the last four days, including on ISIS watercraft, tactical vehicles, and supply routes.  (Deir Ezzor24, @QSD_Jabha, CJTF-OIR)

Political

  • 30 NOV: An unnamed American citizen who allegedly joined ISIS and was captured in Syria has requested a lawyer. After pushback from a federal judge, the Justice Department admitted the man had asked for a lawyer but one has has so far not been provided to him. He has been detained for over two months, reportedly in Iraq. (CNN, Daily Beast)
  • 1 DEC: The head of the Syrian government’s delegation in Geneva, Bashar al-Jaafari, pulled out of negotiations due to the “preconditions” of the opposition’s “Riyadh statement.” Jaafari claimed the preconditions violate UNSC resolution 2254. The opposition called Jaafari’s exit from the talks “irresponsible.” Read a reported leak of UN Envoy Staffan de Mistura’s working paper on negotiations here. (CNN-AR, Sana, Reuters, @SyrianHNC_en) (TSI Analyst Note: De Mistura reportedly brokered a deal between the government and opposition that the “Riyadh statement” would not be discussed at Geneva. The wording of the statement potentially allows for the removal of Assad to be a precondition for a political agreement.)
  • 1 DEC: Chinese Special Envoy Xiao Yan addressed rumors about China sending troops to Syria with the opposition delegation, saying China “categorically den[ies]” sending its forces to Syria. This week, there have been multiple rumors China planned to send special forces to fight the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) branch in Syria. The TIP is a Uighur jihadist group founded in western China.  (Enab Baladi-AR, Russianmilitaryinsyaria FB-AR)
  • 1 DEC: The second round of local elections occurred in Kurdish-held northern Syria, as voters selected candidates for city councils. According to local media, voting in Qamishli was observed by Russian, US, and Iraqi Kurdish officials. (Reuters, Enab Baladi-AR, ANF-AR, Syria Direct)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 30 NOV: “A War Within a War: Chechnya’s Expanding Role in Syria” – Neil Hauer (Syria Deeply)
  • 30 NOV: “Amid Russian and Syrian Regime Triumphalism, Is the War in Syria Effectively Over?” – Michael Young (CEIP)
  • 30 NOV: “Syria: Booby-traps and landmines – the conditions awaiting Raqqa’s returning residents” (MSF)
  • 30 NOV: “A Look at the Islamic State’s Infiltration of a Syrian Air Base” (Stratfor)
  • 30 NOV: “Syria: Banned Soviet-made cluster munitions fuel humanitarian catastrophe in Eastern Ghouta” – Philip Luther (Amnesty International)
  • 1 DEC: “996 Civilians Killed in November 2017 Including 79% at the Hands of the Syrian-Russian Alliance” (SNHR)
  • 1 DEC: “Russia trains Iran-sponsored Shia militias in Syria” (Afghanistan Analysis Blog)