The following is a selection by our editors of significant weekly developments in Syria. Depending on events, each issue will include anywhere from four to eight briefs. This series is produced in both Arabic and English in partnership between Salon Syria and Jadaliyya. Suggestions and blurbs may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Differences and Patrols
8 September 2019
Hours after the start of joint patrols between the two countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara and Washington have ongoing differences on the establishment of the “safe zone” in northern Syria, confirming the declining confidence between the two NATO countries and pointing out the differences with Washington on numerous objectives.
After intense negotiations, Turkey and the United States established a joint operations center, however, they did not agree on the depth of the security zone or on the command structure for the forces that will operate there.
The US-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as a terrorist organization, control most parts of the safe zone.
Tukey (which hosts around 3.6 million Syrian refugees) intends to settle one million refugees in northern Syria. It could open the route to Europe for migrants if it does not receive sufficient funding for this plan.
Bombing the Tehran-Damascus Road
9 September 2019
Eighteen fighters were killed in airstrikes targeting positions for Iranian forces and allied groups in northern Syria on Sunday night, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The SOHR was not able to identify the party that carried out the air raids. The strike occurred in Deir Azzor governorate which has been a scene for complex operations where various fighting groups are present.
In June of 2018, strikes in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border killed fifty-five fighters from forces loyal to the government, especially Syrian and Iraqi nationals, according to the SOHR.
An anonymous US official in Washington blamed Israel for the attack, but the Israeli army refused to comment.
Oil Tanker Without Oil
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Sunday that the oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, which raises Iran’s flag and subject to US sanctions, docked in a port in the Mediterranean and its cargo has been completely sold in the sea.
Mousavi said that the tanker, which is believed to carry two million barrels of oil, reached an undisclosed destination, according to Bloomberg news agency on Sunday.
Adrian Darya 1 had earlier this week disappeared from satellite tracking systems off the Syrian shore.
The tanker – formerly called Grace 1 – played a central role in a months-long dispute between the west and Iran. British forces detained the tanker near Gibraltar in July on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
Gibraltar authorities released the ship on 15 August and said Iran had presented guarantees that the ship would not sail to a destination which the EU imposes sanctions on.
Ten from “Nusra”
7 September 2019
The Italian police said on Saturday that they detained ten people suspected of tax crimes aimed at providing financial support for the “terrorist Nusra Front” in Syria.
The suspects – eight Tunisians and two Italians – include an imam in a mosque in the central Abruzzo region and an Italian tax counselor.
A statement said that these funds, in addition to donations collected within mosques, were “meant to be allocated to fund activities of the radical Islamic organization – Nusra front.”
A number of radical imams in Italy benefitted from this money, including an ex-convict who was previously imprisoned for a terrorist related case and another who was deported from Italy because of his radical ideas, according to the police.
Relief for the Displaced
6 September 2019
The United Nations said that humanitarian aid was sent on Friday to a camp for displaced people in Syria near the Jordanian border for the first time since February.
Al-Rukban camp once hosted around forty thousand people living in destitution, however, more than half of its residents have left in recent months, according to the UN, after Syrian authorities and their Russian ally opened up passages and encouraged people to head for areas controlled by Damascus.
The United Nations estimates that around fifteen thousand people still live inside the camp, which is located near al-Tanf base of the US-led international coalition to fight the Islamic State.
“The humanitarian situation in Rukban remains critical, with food being a priority need,” said UN spokesman Hedinn Halldorsson, adding that supplies are expected to last for thirty days.
Russian Protection for Turkey
4 September 2019
Russian forces in Syria secured a pathway for Turkish forces to reach their base in Hama governorate in central Syria on Wednesday. Social media pages affiliated with the Hmeimeim base posted photos of Russian soldiers deployed in the city of Khan Sheikhoun as they were providing security for Turkish forces convoys headed towards northern Hama.
US Bombardment of Russian Truce
2 September 2019
Russia and Iran on Monday accused the United States of jeopardizing the ceasefire in the Syrian governorate of Idlib by attacking the jihadists.
The US army confirmed on Saturday that it launched a strike against a facility affiliated with al-Qaeda in Idlib, killing around forty militants.
Russia, which supports the Syrian government in the ongoing civil war, was not informed in advance of the US action.
Air strikes on Idlib, northwest of Syria, stopped on Saturday morning as the Russian-declared ceasefire went into effect, according to the SOHR.
One Year After the Settlement in Daraa
1 September 2019
The unique experience of cohabitation between Syrian government forces and opposition factions, which surrendered to the government, has failed to establish security in the southern governorate of Daraa amid numerous explosions, assassination, and detentions.
Daraa, the cradle of anti-government protests in 2011, was the only area from which opposition fighters did not leave after the government retook control in July 2018.
A Russian sponsored settlement deal put an end to military operations between government forces and opposition factions. The deal stipulated that the factions hand over their heavy weaponry, however, many members remained in their areas in contrast to what happened in other areas the government retook control of. The fighters kept their light weapons and government forces did not deploy in all parts of the governorate.
Several thousand opposition fighters and civilians left Daraa in the summer of 2018 because they refused the settlement deal which spared it from total destruction. However, most faction fighters agreed to the deal.
These fighters are present in vast areas and are responsible for providing security in the southern and western countryside and the southern neighborhoods of Daraa city, known as Daraa al-Balad. Some former opposition fighters joined the Fifth Legion, a faction within the Syrian army that is supported by Russia.
The presence of the Syrian government in these areas is restricted to official institutions and security personnel, while government forces are deployed on checkpoints surrounding these areas.