TSI Syria Update: January 9, 2018

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

Military

  • 9 JAN: Syrian state media reported that Israeli air force jets fired missiles from Lebanese airspace near the al-Qutayfah area, where anti-air positions reportedly intercepted the missiles and hit one of the jets. It also said that Israel fired ground-to-ground missiles into Syria but they were intercepted. (Sana, Ynet) (TSI Analyst Note: These reports should be taken with a grain of salt, as there are no reliable independent sources corroborating this event and no images of the attacks, which is unusual.)
  • 9 JAN: Pro-government forces continued to advance in Idlib province. The government announced that its forces took control of the Maarat al-Numan, Abu Duhur road, bringing them within ten kilometers of the Abu al-Duhur airbase. Eight civilians were reportedly killed in airstrikes on the Idlib town of Abu al-Duhur and another four civilians were reportedly killed in strikes al-Jadid village. The offensive has displaced an estimated 100,000 civilians have been displaced in the past week. (@24Idlib, Enab Baladi-AR, Smart-AR, Middle East Eye, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 9 JAN: Assad Coalition forces continued their attacks on besieged Eastern Ghouta today. Attacks on Saqba killed three people including two children, while shelling on the civilian market in Douma killed five people and injured more than 15 others. A total of 24 civilians were killed. (Smart-AR, @SiegeWatch, @SiegeWatch, @sams_usa)

Political

  • 8 JAN: OIR spokesperson Col Ryan Dillon said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continues to clear pockets of ISIS in the mid-Euphrates River valley, where ISIS reportedly still holds the villages of Abu Hassan, al-Shafah, Susah, and al-Baghuz. (@OIRSpokesman, SOHR)
  • 9 JAN: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that the Syrian government attacking moderate rebel forces in Idlib is undermining the possibility of a peace process, saying “the groups who will come together in Sochi should not do this.” Turkey summoned the Russian and Iranian ambassadors to protest the Assad Coalition’s violation of the de-escalation zone agreements. (Reuters, Daily Sabah)
  • 9 JAN: Russia noted the “strange coincidence” of US surveillance craft operating in the  area when its bases came under attack from drones on 5 January, saying the technology could only  have come from a state actor. The Pentagon denied any involvement, saying the materials could be bought on the open market. (Russia MOD FB, WaPo, @rabrowne75) (TSI Analyst Note: Homemade drones have regularly been used by armed groups, including ISIS, in Syria and other conflicts in the Middle East.)
  • 9 JAN: The Israeli Interior Ministry announced it will hold local elections in the Syrian Golan in October 2018. (MEMO, Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 9 JAN: The opposition’s Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) warned that the Syrian peace talks in Sochi risk undermining the Geneva peace process, and urged the international community to pressure the Syrian government to participate in the Geneva process. (@SyrianHNC_en)
  • 9 JAN: UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, arrived in Damascus today for a three-day visit, where he will meet with Syrian government and UN officials. (@UNReliefChief)

Humanitarian

  • 9 JAN: Rukban refugee camp has begun to receive humanitarian aid, after yesterday’s announcement by Jordan that they would drop supplies into the camp across the border with a crane. Reportedly, 3,000 parcels of aid have already been delivered. (Syria Direct)

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 8 JAN: “Putin’s road from Damascus: After the “victory,” what?” – Pavel K. Baev (Brookings)
  • 8 JAN: “Commentary: Cracks in Russia-Iran alliance open options for Trump” – Josh Cohen (Reuters)
  • 8 JAN: “Turan — a new private military company fighting in Syria or an elaborate hoax?” – Ruslan Leviev (CITeam)
  • 8 JAN: “The story of Idlib is being rewritten by the Syrian regime, but facts matter” – Mina Al-Oraibi (The National)
  • 9 JAN: “Jihadist control of northwest Syria ‘not tenable,’ says Sam Heller” – Justin Clark (Syria Direct)
  • 9 JAN: “A Primer on the Merits Issues in ACLU v. Mattis (the U.S. Citizen Enemy Combatant Case)” – Robert Chesney, Steve Vladeck (Lawfare)
  • 9 JAN: “UN Security Council Action Over Syria Chemical Attacks Overdue” – Louis Charbonneau (HRW)
  • 9 JAN: “Trump’s silence on Syria contrasts with his criticism of Iran” – Simon Tisdall (The Guardian)
  • 9 JAN: “Talks with rebels in no-man’s land as Russia eyes post-war role in Syria” – Ellen Francis (Reuters)