Syria news/Archive/2017-01

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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.