Syria news/Archive/2017-02

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28 Feb. Russia and China veto a UN resolution sanctioning Syrian goverment for alleged chemical attacks.

27 Feb. The SAA cuts Turkish-occupied Al-Bab from ISIS by connecting with SDF/YPG-controlled territory around Manbij.

25 Feb. The second congress of the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD), the political wing of the SDF, takes place in Derik under the motto “Together Towards a Federal Democratic Syria” (opening remarks).

A powerful VBIED kills 8 Turkish soldiers and 60 FSA mercenaries and wounds around a hundred more in Sousian village 9 km north-west of Al-Bab.

The SAA continues its advancement east between Al-Bab and Deir Hafer and has taken several towns and villages from ISIS in the last week.

24 Feb. The Pentagon declares that it will from now on call ISIS ISIS.

General Joseph Votel, the head of CENTCOM, visits the frontlines of Wrath of Euphrates.

The Iraqi Airforce for the first time bombs ISIS targets in Syria, namely near Abukamal where the Euphrates enters Iraq.

Turkey cuts off the water supply to the Euphrates to a level where the electricity generation at Tishrin Dam stops working, leaving parts of Manbij and Kobane cantons without power.

Situation around Raqqa

23 Feb. The Wrath of Euphrates command announces that the operation has liberated 664 km² between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in the 8 days the second step of the third phase is running.

The next round of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva starts.

Turkish media declares Al-Bab "liberated" again. Al Masdar reports that the "FSA" proxies claim the same, and that a deal with ISIS to retreat to Deir Hafer was made - although ISIS has so far been silent on the supposed development. Later in the day news comes in that ISIS has also abandoned Bza'a and Qabasin, therefore finally allowing Euphrates Shield to take over what has been a besieged almost-pocket for months.

22 Feb. According to an analyst of the influential Washington think-tank CNAS, insider circles refer to the Turkish-promised force that will liberate Raqqa as the "Unicorn force". Euphrates Shield has in total only recruited 2-3 thousand "FSA" fighters, according to him, while the SDF has 23,000 Arab fighters in addition to its main force, the Kurdish YPG.

21 Feb. Reuters reports that CIA-supported "rebels" in Idlib province have suffered from a freeze of cash and weapon supply for a month. Proverbial anonymous US officials cited in the report say that this has nothing to do with the change of administration.

20 Feb. The SAA command calls on the citizens of 44 liberated towns and villages in eastern Aleppo province to return home.

While "rebels" continue their offensive on Deraa, a surprise move by an ISIS affiliate takes over several of their home villages and towns which were left ill defended.

A YPG statement details attacks by the Turkish army and its proxies in the previous days, mostly shelling of towns and villages in Afrin canton.

19 Feb. After a Turkish delegation to Washington trying to make the US drop SDF support and support a Turkish plan to go to Raqqa was met with a "frosty response", PM Yildirim says in Munich that Turkey would be "at the back" of attempts to capture Raqqa from ISIS, with other forces at the front.

18 Feb. The US-led coalition destroys yet another Euphrates bridge, this time the al-Meghle Bridge west of Maadan village, located 60 km east of Raqqa city.

At an event in Damascus, two new car models produced at a factory near Hama with Chinese cooperation are presented.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry writes a letter to the UN detailing and complaining about the illegal actions of Turkey on their soil, revealing a military base Turkey is said to have build in Jtrar village north of Tel Rifaat as HQ of operation Euphrates Shield.

17 Feb. Wrath of Euphrates command announces the second step of the third phase of the operation, with the goal to take over the region immediatly east of Raqqa and cut off the connection between the city and Deir Ez-Zor in the south-east. The Deir ez-Zor military council (of mostly tribal local militias) will participate.

While the SAA is advancing further east in the Deir Hafer plains, SAA sources report that ISIS has opened the pumps at Lake Assad and is flooding the Al Jer canal located in the same plains. If this has something to do with the UN warning about the Tabqa Dam and what it means for the water supply of Aleppo is unclear. A statement by the Aleppo Governor in the evening makes it sound like the only effect is flooding of villages and farmlands, while the water supply to Aleppo city (through pipelines?) is still cut off.

With Euphrates Shield retreating again against an ISIS counter-offensive in Al-Bab, Fehim Taştekin takes up the difficult task of making sense of Erdogan's ever-changing statements and his real goal in an op-ed for Al Monitor.

16 Feb. Reports in Turkish media that according to a high-ranking military source the Al-Bab operation "is over" and the city taken are met with scepticism as they contradict all information from the ground. Later, Turkish media seems to backpedal (Hürriyet changes headline, original source Daily Sabah blames their reporter).

Another meeting in Astana takes place. Syrian delegation head Al-Jaafari complains about lack of seriousness of the Turkish side.

In Sweden a Syrian refugee is sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the execution of Syrian soldiers in Idlib province in 2012.

Assad is interviewed by French television (transcript).

15 Feb. A pan-Kurdish conference takes place in Moscow (ARA, Rudaw). It isn't officially supported by the Russian government. The Barzani clan doesn't attend. It coincides with the 18th anniversary of the arrest of Abdullah Öcalan, known and commemorated as "the black day".

ISIS restores the water supply to Aleppo city from the pumping stations at the Euphrates, then cuts it off again after 20 hours.

The UN warns that the ISIS-controlled and partly damaged Tabqa Dam is in danger of flooding due to rising water levels. Raqqa is 25 km downstream of the building, which is the largest dam in Syria. The SDF stands immediately north of it.

The "civil war" between "rebel" factions in Idlib province continues.

14 Feb. After an al-Qaeda-led offensive in the southern city of Deraa directly at the Jordanian border, reports surface that wounded militants are not allowed anymore to cross into Jordan to the field hospitals located there. A Syrian military source cited by Al-Masdar states that this follows a Russian-Jordanian agreement to tighten border security.

Foreign Policy reports that the US has - against given promise - used depleted Uranium ammunition in Syria. The horrible side effects of this type of ammunition are well documented.

13 Feb. Erdogan is back to claiming that Turkey and its proxies will go to Manbij and finally Raqqa after they've taken over Al-Bab. The "ultimate goal" he says is to create a "safe zone" of 5,000 km², which is 2.5 times the area they occupy now.

12 Feb. According to a press statement, the third phase of Wrath of Euphrates has liberated 700 km² including 98 villages in the nine days it is running and is about to reach its goal.

ISIS is engaged in blowing up gas pipelines in Palmyra countryside, and in an at least partly successful counter-offensive against the SDF in western Raqqa province, and in successful defense of repeated attacks of Euphrates Shield east of and in Al-Bab.

Kurdish sources accuse the Turkish army (again) of committing massacres against civilians in Al-Bab instead of fighting ISIS.

11 Feb. Al-Bab: While the SAA takes over ISIS' last supply road and stands 2 km south of the city, Euphrates Shield captures some important points inside the western part of it, with the Russian, Turkish and US airforces all flying raids.

A "safe corridor" was opened on Thursday at al-Samalil village south-east of Taldou in the Houla plains, for citizens and militants who want to use the prolongued amnesty. It will be open for a month and saw already "scores" of people using it during the first three days, according to SANA. Hezbollah outlet Al Manar reports that 82 militants have layed down their weapons there.

Two fronts of Wrath of Euphrates meet, enclosing a large land area. The SDF stands 9 km north of Raqqa.

At a conference in Riyadh a single delegation of the Saudi-supported "opposition", led by Mohammed Sabra, is formed for the Geneva talks.

10 Feb. Kremlin spokesperson Peskov states that the coordinates for the air strike that hit Turkish army forces were delivered by the Turks themselves.

Assad is interviewed by Yahoo News (transcript).

9 Feb. After around a dozen Turkish soldiers had been wounded and 3 killed by air strikes near Al-Bab the day before, which Turkish officials accused the SAAF of having done, the Kremlin announces that it was a Russian plane that accidently carried out the attack and expresses condolences to Erdogan. Meanwhile, rumors say that SAA and Euphrates Shield forces clashed for the first time near Al-Bab.

7 Feb. Invitations to the Geneva talks starting on 20 Feb are about to be send.

The YPG releases a balance sheet detailing several serious border violations by the Turkish army in the first week of February.

The SAA stands 3 kms south of Al-Bab and has cut the main supply road between the city and Deir Hafer in the south-east towards Raqqa.

Assad is interviewed by Belgian media (transcript).

6 Feb. At a meeting in Astana on expert level, delegations from Russia, Turkey, Iran and the UN discuss specific measures to implement the ceasefire monitoring. Another meeting will take place on 15-16 Feb.

Members of the self-titled Syrian Elite Forces tribal militia join the 3rd phase of Wrath of Euphrates.

According to Al-Bab citizens who fled to Afrin canton, both ISIS and Euphrates Shield "mercenaries" are engaged in "a play" trying to clean the city of its inhabitants.

5 Feb. Assad extends the Amnesty decree till 30 June, 2017.

4 Feb. The Wrath of Euphrates operation room declares the beginning of the third phase of the operation, with the aim to liberate the eastern countryside of Raqqa province (frontline).

The SAA has reached the gas fields in north-western Palmyra countryside and takes the strategic Hayyan field from ISIS.

3 Feb. According to both SANA and the SOHR, US-Coalition planes destroy two bridges in Raqqa province, two bridges in Raqqa city and the main water line to the city, leaving it completely without drinking water supply.

2 Feb. RT's Oksana Boyko interviews Dilek Öcalan, a niece of Abdullah Öcalan and member of the Turkish parliament, about the role of the Kurds in the Syrian crisis.

ISIS uses captured Turkish Army equipment against Syrian Army in Aleppo.

1 Feb. External Syrian opposition voices criticize De Mistura for his proposal to pick representatives for the Geneva meeting if they fail to do so themselves.