Syria news/Current

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26 Mar. While the SDF has taken control of the northern end of Tabqa dam, ISIS media claims that the dam is damaged and out of service due to bombing of the US-led coalition. Reports that ISIS tells civilians in Raqqa to flee due to the danger of the dam collapsing are picked up by news agencies.

23 Mar. According to some reports, the SDF with US help captured the Tabqa dam following yesterday's airdrop operation. The quoted statement by CENTCOM speaks in future tense, though, but affirms that the dam is the target of the operation. A Wrath of Euphrates statement the next day clarifies that the liberation has yet to happen.

The Turkish Army continues to shell Kurdish villages in Afrin canton across the border.

Situation in eastern Aleppo countryside

While the SAA was about to close the surrounding of Deir Hafer in the morning, the same loyalist sources report in the afternoon that ISIS agreed to an offer to withdraw from the city and has already left. The next day it turns out that this was a misinformation and the city is still in ISIS hands.

22 Mar. The US airdrops SDF and own special forces onto the Shurfa peninsula on the southern side of Lake Assad, south-west of Al-Tabqa. They liberate several villages and reportedly block the highway that runs north-west to Maskanah and Deir Hafer, where on the latter part it is blocked by the SAA.

21 Mar. The Kurds celebrate Newroz, the beginning of spring and the new year (report and pictures from Rojava).

Situation in northern Hama province

The Idlib "rebels" led by Al-Qaeda start their annual Hama offensive.

20 Mar. According to a Reuters report citing YPG spokesperson Redur Xelil, yesterday they made a deal with Russia who will help to train them and set up a base in Kafr Jina in Afrin canton. Troops have already arrived, he says, which seems to be corrobated by video evidence. Reacting to the Reuters report, the Russian Defense Ministry denies plans for new bases in Syria and describes the troops as part of the Reconcilation Center's operation to "prevent ceasefire breaches".

19 Mar. The SAA continues to advance in eastern Homs province to the north and east of Palmyra.

Iraq: The head of Badr organization states that all escape routes for ISIS to Syria are closed.

18 Mar. According to several sources, the offensive to take Raqqa city, which is isolated by now, will start no later than early April.

The SAA is closing in on Deir Hafer from north, west and south.

The Manbij Military Council releases a statement offering locals fighting in Euphrates Shield a safe return home and participation in Wrath of Euphrates. The offer is valid for one month.

17 Mar. Four Israeli jets enter Syrian airspace and strike military targets around Palmyra. The Syrian side answers by firing anti-aircraft missiles, claiming that one jet was shot down and another one damaged. The Israelis deny that any of their jets were hit and claim the target of the attacks was Hezbollah. Russia summons the Israeli ambassador over the incident.

Russian Defense Ministry's spokesperson Konashenkov states that if the money spend by western countries on producing a "mountain of garbage of their own fakes and open lies" would be spend for humanitarian aid instead, Aleppo "would be a blooming garden city".

Following a reconcilation agreement, a first batch of 1,500 militants, of a total of 10,000 persons including family members, leave al-Waer, the last militant-controlled neighbourhood in Homs city, taking a proverbial green bus ride north.

16 Mar. Damascus urges U.N to stop US air raids on Syrian infrastructure, Euphrates bridges.

A US airstrike first falsely attributed to Russia by several media outlets strikes what opposition activists say was a mosque near Idlib, reportedly killing dozens of people (ACLOS page).

15 Mar. At a hotel in Turkey, 50 Syrian tribe leaders found "a new army" with the goal to fight everybody else in northern Syria on behalf of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Sightings of unicorns have not been reported.

14 Mar. For the first time in 74 days, water from Lake Assad reaches Aleppo city through the pipelines.

A report by the UN Syria Commission claims that the water supply from Wadi Barada had not been poisoned, and that the damage to the spring resulted from SyAF bombing, not actions of "rebels".

The third round of talks in Astana begins.

13 Mar. Convoy of Russian MOD lightly armored vehicles arrived to a Kurdish village of Arima near Manbij and delivered humanitarian assistance (report and video). Russian sources credit the convoy with a role in separating Turkish and Kurdish forces.

12 Mar. The Manbij Executive Council with 13 committees is formed and sworn in.

Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham claims responsibility for a twin bomb attack on Iraqi Shi'ite pilgrims in Damascus a day earlier, which killed 74 and wounded 120. Syrian Perspective wants to know that the group only provided the suicide bombers while the attack was planned by Saudis and Brits operating out of Jordan.

11 Mar. Assad is interviewed by Chinese TV (transcript).

The US declares the latest ecdysis of Al Qaeda in Syria, Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham, a terrorist organization.

10 Mar. The Syrian government urges the UN to make Turkey withdraw from Syria.

Accompanied by a strong delegation, Erdogan visits Moscow and meets Putin.

The prominent Turkish Middle East analyst Fehim Tastekin speaks at a conference in Cologne, Germany, about Turkey's role in the Syria crisis (summary).

There are conflicting reports about the status of the fight over Jirah airbase, with Syrian Perspective claiming that it is already completely liberated.

9 Mar. According to information obtained by SouthFront, the Turkish government plans to build a new city for 80,000 people north of Al-Bab in six months time.

8 Mar. After reaching Lake Assad, the SAA takes the water pumping station and several villages, moving south towards Jirah airbase. These parts of Syria had been in various militant hands since 2012.

The first five villages in western Manbij countryside are handed over from the SDF to the SAA.

The Washington Post reports that "Marines have arrived in Syria to fire artillery in the fight for Raqqa".

De Mistura: Next (fifth) round of Geneva talks set to begin on 23 Mar.

7 Mar. The SAA advances almost to Lake Assad, takes Al-Khafsah town and enters the water pumping station to the south of it. It also clears the pocket between their and SDF territory bordering north. ISIS seems to retreat south without much a fight to a defense line between Deir Hafer and Jirah airbase.

The military chiefs of staff of Turkey, US and Russia meet in Antalya, Turkey to discuss Syria. According to an Al-Monitor report Russia and the US agree that Ahrar Al-Sham is a terrorist organization and the YPG is not, while Turkey takes the opposite stance.

6 Mar. Wrath of Euphrates cuts off the main road and reaches the Euphrates half-way between Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor.

A statement by the Manbij Military Council clarifies that Manbij city is not part of the agreement with Russia. Only regions south-west of it at the contact line with Euphrates Shield are supposed to be taken over by the SAA, while the SDF and the "international coalition" will keep military control over the city. Surfacing of footage of US special forces near the city is called a "deliberate action" by a US army spokesperson. A list published later by Al-Masdar of twenty villages to be given to the SAA contains names going north all the way of the western front up to Arab Hassan Kabir. Meanwhile, attacks by Euphrates Shield forces on the villages bordering their control are going on.

The second school semester begins. 34 schools in eastern Aleppo are reopened, according to UNICEF.

5 Mar. The SAA continues its advance towards Lake Assad and is around 6 km away from the ISIS-controlled Al Khafsah water pumping station, which still doesn't deliver water to Aleppo.

4 Mar. The Turkish PM states that the SAA moving into Manbij "is not a negative development for us".

3 Mar. The Russian defense ministry says that Manbij city is part of the agreement with the SDF to hand over power to the SAA. Convoys are already on the way and basic government services are to be provided as of today. The US seems to be fine with this agreement, although not directly involved, as it fulfills the main demand of Turkey that the YPG leaves the area west of the Euphrates. It remains to be seen if these developments mark the end of Operation Euphrates Shield and how any further occupation of Syrian land by Turkey could be justified.

A press conference by De Mistura concludes the fourth round of the inter-Syrian dialogue in Geneva.

2 Mar. Following attacks of the Turkish army and its proxies on SDF-held villages in Manbij countryside, the Manbij Millitary Council releases a statement announcing that as part of "an alliance we made with Russia" they are handing over a buffer zone at the contact line to Syrian state forces.

The US military estimates that there are between 12 and 15 thousand ISIS fighters left in Syria and Iraq, which is around half of their estimates in 2015.

After ISIS retreats, the Russian defence ministry announces the complete liberation of Palmyra.

1 Mar. After a rapid advance, the SAA takes Palmyra citadel back from ISIS and stands in front of the city.

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.

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