TSI Syria Update: January 11, 2018

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

Military

  • 11 JAN: Opposition fighters in Idlib launched the “Repelling Tyranny” counter-offensive against Assad Coalition forces in Idlib, attempting to slow their advance on Abu al-Duhur airbase. Reportedly, multiple armed opposition groups (AOGs) announced a joint operations room, and received new vehicle and arms shipments from Turkey. Extremist AOG Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are reportedly not part of the coordinated operations. (AP, Reuters, @Charles_Lister, @24Idlib, @TNTranslations)
  • 11 JAN: The Islamic State’s Amaq news released a video of four Assad Coalition prisoners taken near Abu al-Duhur airport, as ISIS continues to launch attacks during increased fighting in Hama and Idlib. (Enab Baladi-AR)
  • 11 JAN: Israeli drones reportedly helped foil an attack on AOGs by the ISIS-affiliated Khalid bin al-Walid Army near Jabiliya and al-Bakar near Daraa. (Enab Baladi)
  • 11 JAN: A Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) Center in al-Lataminah, Hama, is reportedly is out of service after heavy shelling and Russian airstrikes targeted the city. (Qasioun)
  • 11 JAN: Pro-government forces have intensified their shelling of besieged communities in northern Homs, killing several people and wounding dozens in the past few days. (SOHR, @SiegeWatch)
  • 11 JAN: Assad Coalition continued attacks against the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta. School exams and Friday prayers tomorrow were cancelled due to the intense onslaught. Harasta alone was targeted with at least 36 airstrikes. (RevoSpring-AR, @SiegeWatch, @SiegeWatch)

Political

  • 11 JAN: The Russian Ministry of Defense held a briefing on the recent drone attack against Russian bases in Syria, during which the Ministry claimed the drones were launched from the rebel-held village of Muwazarra in Idlib, and reiterated their previous claims that the technology in the drones used was complex. The Daily Beast reported that drones similar to those recovered from the attack were reportedly being sold on an online black market via Telegram. Both the recovered models and those being sold on Telegram are technologically rudimentary. (The Daily Beast, Russia MOD, WaPo) (TSI Analyst Note: Telegram is used extensively in Syria as means to buy and sell arms. Read more here.)
  • 11 JAN: Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Satterfield testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. Satterfield iterated that the US is committed to the UN-backed Geneva process as a counter to Russian attempts to take over Syrian negotiations, and sees no way Assad could win in future elections. Satterfield also testified the US is concerned about foreign troops in Syria, but downplayed the threat of an Iranian “land bridge.” The Department of Defense declined to testify at the hearing. (SFAC)
  • 11 JAN: Russia’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev met with Bashar al-Assad today in Syria. According to the Syrian government, the two discussed bilateral conference and the upcoming Sochi conference. (@Presidency_sy-AR)
  • 11 JAN: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Russian President Putin on the phone today, where Erdogan called upon Russia to end attacks in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib so the Astana and Sochi negotiations may succeed. Putin also reportedly told Erdogan he knows who was behind the drone attack earlier this month, and does not believe it was Turkey. (Reuters, Daily Sabah, Kremlin)

Humanitarian

  • None.

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 10 JAN: OpEd: “Syria’s war is far from over” – Christopher Phillips (MEE)
  • 11 JAN: “6,900 Syrians in US face risk of deportation if Trump ends protection” – Joyce Karam (The National)
  • 11 JAN: “Coalition Analysis Warns of Potential Islamic State Resurgence” – Rhys Dubin (FP)
  • 11 JAN: “Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock: Statement to the media on first visit to Syria Damascus, 11 January 2018” – (Relief Web)
  • 11 JAN: “QRCS Slams Bombardment of Health Care Facility in Idlib” (Qatar Red Crescent Society)