TSI Syria Update: December 7, 2017

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

Military

  • 7 DEC: There are unconfirmed reports that extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has agreed to pull out of Eastern Ghouta. Reportedly, opposition factions in the besieged communities reached an informal agreement with HTS, but it is unclear if the group intends to partially withdraw or entirely cease operations. (Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 7 DEC: Three schools were reportedly bombed south of Aleppo in al-Hanuteh and al-Hamidiyah. According to local media, Russian airstrikes were responsible. (Enab Baladi-AR, Eldorar-AR)
  • 7 DEC: Air and artillery strikes escalated around Beit Jinn, as Assad Coalition forces continue to clash with HTS. According to pro-regime media, the Assad Coalition gained control of a strategic hill overlooking a main supply route in the rebel-held pocket.  (Enab Baladi-AR, AMN)

Political

  • 7 DEC: The Syrian government will return to UN-backed talks in Geneva on 10 December after walking out last week. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura iterated that negotiations would be held without “preconditions,” and plans to assess next week if any party was attempting to “sabotage” the talks. However, the opposition reaffirmed its commitments the “Riyadh statement,” the point of contention cited by the government as their reason for leaving Geneva. (@UNGeneva, Sana, Reuters, @SyriaHNC_en)
  • 7 DEC: Syrians protested in Damascus, Idlib, Aleppo, and the besieged Palestinian Yarmouk camp after President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem on Wednesday. The Syrian parliament condemned the decision, calling it an “extension of the Balfour Declaration.” Smart-AR, Sana, Smart Youtube-AR)
  • 7 DEC: During a speech, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson blamed Western countries for not responding to red lines in Syria, saying “We willed the end, and failed to will the means — leaving the pitch wide open for Russia and Iran.” (Bloomberg)
  • 7 DEC: UN humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland stated that 12 people have died from medical conditions after waiting to be evacuated from besieged Eastern Ghouta. According to Egeland, there are currently 494 civilians on the list, who the Syrian government is refusing to evacuate. In his media brief, Egeland pleaded for Syrian government permission to medically evacuate three children from Eastern Ghouta. (AP, UN WebTV)
  • 7 DEC: The US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued a statement thanking Russia for their support during the campaign against ISIS. The statement also clarified Russia only operated west of the Euphrates, apparently in response to remarks made at a joint YPG-Russia meeting that stated the two cooperated east of the river. (SDF Press) (TSI Analyst Note: It is unclear if the YPG-Russia meeting, and future cooperation, involve the YPG-dominated SDF. Yesterday, a Pentagon official harshly criticized Russia’s military campaign, saying combating ISIS and other terror groups is not their priority in Syria.)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 6 DEC: “Syria’s Largest Militant Alliance Steps Further Away From Al-Qaida” – Mona Alami (Syria Deeply)  
  • 6 DEC: “Germany Is Preparing to Send Refugees Back to Syria” – James Traub (FP)
  • 6 DEC: “Patterns of civilian and child deaths due to war-related violence in Syria: a comparative analysis from the Violation Documentation Center dataset, 2011-16” – Debarati Guha-Sapir, Debarati Guha-Sapir, Benjamin Schlüter, Jose Manuel Rodriguez-Llanes, Louis Lillywhite, Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks (The Lancet Global Health)
  • 7 DEC: “Women at the Forefront of Saving Syria’s Heritage” – Arwa al-Basha and Florence Massena (Syria Deeply)
  • 7 DEC: “Shivering residents in northwestern Syria burn secondhand clothing for warmth” – Waleed Khaled a-Noufal and Maria Nelson (Syria Direct)
  • 7 DEC: “OSE Syria – Media Stakeout: Humanitarian Access Task Force & Political Update”  (UN Web TV)
  • 7 DEC: “How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture” – Michael Press (Hyperallergic)
  • 7 DEC: “Conversations: Life as a Paramedic During ISIS’ Rule of Raqqa” – Youmna al-Dimashqi (Syria Deeply)
  • 7 DEC: “In Syria, ‘Reconciliation’ Is Bleak” – Humam Moadamani (The Nation)
  • 7 DEC: “Syrian Kurds move closer to Russia” – Fehim Tastekin (Al-Monitor)