Syria news/Current

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Situation around Raqqa
Situation around Al-Bab

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

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.

31 Jan. The Russian army opens an "International Mine Action Centre" campus in Aleppo and starts training a first batch of 60-70 Syrian army people in demining operations.

The Trump administration delivers armoured vehicles to the SDF.

30 Jan. Erdogan says that the Turkish army mission in Syria will be over after Al-Bab is conquered from ISIS, contradicting his earlier statements that they would move on to Manbij or even Raqqa, and recent statements by his prime minister. Meanwhile, the SAA stands 6 km south of the city.

Syrian PM Imad Khamis estimates that there has been $US 2 billion loss in the oil sector during the last two months due to "terrorist attacks" (i.e. ISIS taking over the fields north of Palmyra).

28 Jan. 44 days after the water supply to Damascus was poisoned and then cutoff by Nusra militants, the SAA takes control over the the main springs in Wadi Barada. Demining of the area is going on.

Following the infighting in Idlib province, a consolidation has taken place with some groups joining Ahrar Al-Sham earlier this week, and today several other groups including TGFTA Al-Nusra and the Noureddine Al-Zenki (and some individuals and subgroups formerly in Ahrar al-Sham) forming a new merger called Tahrir Al-Sham (infographics).

According to Qatari-owned, London-based "The New Arab" outlet, Trump's final executive order on immigration signed Friday doesn't include the "safe zone in Syria" orders the draft presented earlier the week did contain.

27 Jan. At the Moscow meeting, Lavrov announces that the UN-brokered Geneva talks have been postponed (again) from February 8 to the end of February. Earlier, de Mistura's office calls the Astana talks "a remarkable contribution" to the Syrian peace process.

The Syrian Kurds celebrate the second anniversary of the liberation of Kobane.

26 Jan. Moscow invites a number of Syrian opposition figures including a PYD representative to a meeting on Friday to brief them on the outcome of the Astana meeting, including the draft constitution Russia circulated there, which was leaked by Rudaw (English language description) and since confirmed authentic. It is said that opposition (the one represented by Mohammad Alloush) rejected the draft (Bloomberg).

UK Foreign Minister Johnson declares that in light of the new Trump administration "the mantra that Assad has to go" will end and they would "accept to allow" him to run for re-election should a peace settlement take place.

25-26 Jan. Trump "will absolutely do safe zones in Syria". Russia was not consulted, urges caution (ABC)(TASS).

25 Jan. Astana. Communique was adopted by Russia, Turkey, Iran. The sides agreed to establish a mechanism of monitoring cessation of hostility. Armed opposition submitted a proposal on monitoring; but neither opposition nor the Syrian goverment signed any documents (TASS, Rus.)

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard releases a statement reporting about her visit to Syria, where she met Assad among many other people, and renews her call to "end regime change war in Syria now" and for the US to "stop supporting terrorists".

24 Jan. Turkish Deputy PM declares rumors that Al-Bab would be handed over to Damascus after capture to be untrue. Meanwhile, the SAA continues to take villages to the south-west of Al-Bab from ISIS and stands on a hill overlooking the southern outskirts of the town.

Astana: A trilateral Turkey-Russia-Iran agreement on the ceasefire and a mechanism to monitor it is in its final stage.

23 Jan. The peace talks in Astana begin. AP publishes a timeline.

Negotiations in Wadi Barada are restarted after the SAA has taken some more areas in recent days.

22 Jan. After taking the town of Suwaydiya, the SDF are approaching al-Tabqa Dam.

Situation in Deir Ez-Zor

With heavy clashes ongoing in Deir Ez-Zor, the SAA sends special forces as reinforcement.

21 Jan. According to an IHS Conflict Monitor analysis, ISIS has lost a quarter of their territory in the year 2016.

20 Jan. ISIS destroys the façade of the Roman Theatre and Tetrapylon in Palmyra.

The US press gets wind of a low profile fact finding visit to Syria by Tulsi Gabbard and Dennis Kucinich.

Assad is interviewed by the Japanese TBS TV channel (transcript).

19 Jan. A total of 177,568 Syrians mothers have given birth in Turkey between April 2011 and September 2016, according to Turkey's health ministry figures.

17 Jan. The SAA starts an offensive in the Deir Hafer plains south-east of Al-Bab.

16 Jan. Reports: IS splits Deir Ezzor enclave in two.

15 Jan. The Obama State Department puts new sanctions on Syria "in response to the use of chemical weapons".

According to a UN report, around 147,000 people have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo during its conquer by the government, over 75% of which chose to go to government-held areas. 50,000 have since returned to their homes.

14 Jan. Retired SAA General Ahmad Al-Ghadban is assasinated by a sniper while leaving the negotiations he led about the situation in Wadi Barada.

Syrian opposition leaders ask Ankara to stop their opposition to allowing the PYD attend the peace talks in Astana.

According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration has been invited to the talks in Astana via a phone call by the Russian ambassador to the US to Michael Flynn that happened already on December 28.

The SAA launches an offensive to take back the gas fields north of Palmyra from ISIS.

13 Jan. The Syrian Government sends two letters to the UN complaining about an Israeli attack on Mezzeh military airbase near Damascus the night before, which set a weapons depot on fire. While some sources say the attack was carried out by an F-35 fighter jet, SANA claims it was by ground-to-ground missiles fired from Lake Tiberias.

After a partial agreement was reached, the SAA stands at the gates of the important Al-Fijah springs in Wadi Barada. Fights with militants who refuse to join the agreement are still going on while technicians are on the way to repair the water supply.

According to a report (original) in a Turkish newspaper citing military sources, around 50 Turkish army officers, sergeants and specialist personnel involved in Operation Euphrates Shield have resigned since the beginning of the year. Lack of food and material, poor planning, high losses are cited as reasons, and the Erdogan government is accused of covering it all up.

A new map by Christian Ionita shows the complex situation in northern Syria including the status of both Operations Euphrates Shield and Wrath of Euphrates.

12 Jan. Erdogan, Putin, De Mistura: Ceasefire holds by and large. Russian Foreign Ministry: Talks in Astana are scheduled for 23 January.

11 Jan. Two fronts of the SDF meet in the village of Kurmanju around 30 km north-west of Raqqa, cutting off and creating a cauldron of ISIS territory to its north-west.

10 Jan. After the Washington Post reports about a US ground operation in ISIS territory near Deir ez-Zor the day before, targeting a specific vehicle with a to-capture ISIS member, FARS News claims that according to local eyewitnesses, the operation "looked like a drill" and was used to relocate "only non-Syrian" members of ISIS, who were taken away in the helicopters.

Ahrar al-Sham and the Nusra Front are involved in increasing infighting in Idlib province, with tens of casualties on both sides in recent days.

9 Jan. With the ceasefire generally holding, the "Russia-Turkey Commission on violations of the Joint Agreement", under which both countries monitor violations separately, combinedly registers around 2-3 dozens violations daily.

Syria and Iraq sign a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement.

8 Jan. After failed negotiations about surrender and/or a green bus tour to Idlib, the SAA and allies restart their offensive to take Barada valley from militants.

ISIS blows up the Hayyan Gas Company factory in eastern Homs, a central source of gas for Syrian civilians.

The Turkish army and allies have to retreat with losses after another failed attempt to take Al-Bab.

7 Jan. Top exile opposition figure Nawaf al-Bashir, head of the 1.2 million people Baggara tribe in Deir Ez-Zor, repents and returns to Syria.

Iraq: Units of the PMU send back a group of American soldiers who came near ISIS frontlines to "train" them, stating a lack of prior coordination and that they want no American forces in unstable regions as they play "dirty games" and "ISIS is an integral part of American projects".

6 Jan. Russia announces a reduction of forces in Syria, starting with the removal of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

A ship with 500 tons of humanitarian aid from Kazakhstan arrives in Tartous.

For the first time in four years, an airplane takes off from Aleppo International Airport. It's a Syrian government test flight in preparation of the planned reopening of the airport in February.

5 Jan. The YPG releases a balance sheet (original) for 2016 detailing the results of their fights against ISIS, "FSA", Turkish and Syrian Armies. The YPG lost 613 of their own fighters over the year.

The Iraqi army and allied militias start a large-scale operation in western Anbar province to seal the border with Syria.

4 Jan. The Turkish FM states that there is a "confidence crisis" over the lack of US support to Operation Euphrates Shield which calls into question the US use of Incirlik airbase. In response, a Pentagon spokesman calls Incirlik “absolutely invaluable” and points to "ongoing negotiations".

3 Jan 2017. The SAA has retaken some of the wells in Wadi Barada and is preparing to take the whole valley. Fights in the eastern Ghouta are also going on. Some of the militant groups who agreed to the ceasefire see this as violation and have suspended talks on peace negotiations.

The Russian air force is bombing ISIS targets in Al-Bab in support of Operation Euphrates Shield.

A "Trump Restaurant" selling Falafel opens in Kobane, named in hope that US help to Kurds will increase under the president-elect. Meanwhile, the Turkish PM calls on the US to stop arming the YPG. He also claims that "only Turkey" is fighting against ISIS.

Archive 2017
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Archive 2016
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