TSI Syria Update: December 8, 2017

 

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

Military

  • 8 DEC: An ISIS ambush reportedly killed 28 fighters of extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the town of al-Hawas near Hama. HTS, the Assad Coalition, and ISIS have all clashed in the area in recent weeks. Additionally, airstrikes and artillery reportedly struck civilians nearby. (Zaman al-Wasl, Smart-AR)
  • 8 DEC: Assad Coalition forces shelled the besieged Eastern Ghouta neighborhoods of Harasta, Arbin, and Ein Tarma. The Directorate of Education in Eastern Ghouta reportedly closed schools in the enclave due to the intense bombardment. (Sham-AR, Enab Baladi-AR, Arbin Media Center FB-AR, Arbin Media Center FB-AR)
  • 8 DEC: Assad Coalition planes targeted the village of Zarzour (south of Idlib city) with airstrikes, killing at least five civilians and injuring an estimated three others. (Smart News-AR, Step News-AR)

Political

  • 7 DEC: In an interview, the former spokesman of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Talal Silo claimed a US official approved of a SDF deal to evacuate 3,500 ISIS fighters from Raqqa. Silo, who recently defected to Turkey, claimed the SDF denied access to Raqqa due to fighting as a cover while ISIS forces were evacuated. (Reuters)
  • 7 DEC: In a briefing on Thursday, Russian General Chief of Staff Colonel Sergey Rudskoy said the last of ISIS’s holdings in Syria have been liberated. He added, “there are no territories controlled by ISIS in Syria today.” (Russian MOD FB) (TSI Analyst Note: This claim does not appear to be true. US military releases indicate Coalition forces conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets in Deir Ezzor  against ISIS targets in Deir Ezzor as recently as yesterday. There is also reportedly a pocket of ISIS control in northern Hama. There is also reportedly a pocket of ISIS control in northern Hama.)
  • 7 DEC: The Syrian opposition delegation at Geneva is reportedly being advised by diplomats to drop its position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure. (AFP)
  • 7 DEC: Moscow is reportedly still trying to hold its Syrian “Congress of National Dialogue,” after mainstream opposition groups and Turkey criticized the process. In a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed that the ongoing Geneva talks could be used to organized a future dialogue in Sochi. Lavrov also reportedly added that Russia and the US had no plans to cooperate in Idlib governorate, but it was working with Turkey and Iran to establish an Idlib de-escalation zone. (Asharq al-Awsat, Russian FM, Tass)
  • 8 DEC: Former LafargeHolcim Chief Executive Officer Eric Olsen was placed under investigation and charged with funding terrorist groups amid previous reports Lafarge paid-off extremist groups to operate a cement plant in Syria. (Bloomberg)

Humanitarian

None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • DEC: “It’s Virtually Impossible to Enter Syria. These Filmmakers Are Still Documenting It” – Yohanda Desta (Vanity Fair)
  • DEC: “Syria’s Reconstruction Scramble” – Muriel Asseburg, Khaled Yacoub Oweis (SWP)
  • 7 DEC: “No less than 33 Massacres in November 2017” (SN4HR)
  • 7 DEC: “In Syria, ‘Reconciliation’ Is Bleak” – Humam Moadamani (The Nation)
  • 8 DEC: “The plea of a Syrian activist: Don’t forget us” – Ishaan Tharoor (Washington Post)
  • 8 DEC: “In Syria’s skies, close calls with Russian warplanes” – Eric Schmitt (NYT)
  • 8 DEC: “The next battle in Syria” Mona Alami – (Al-Monitor)