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 info@salonsyria.com.

 

US Bombardment and Russian Condemnation

1 September 2019

Russia on Sunday accused the United States of “jeopardizing” the ceasefire in the Syrian governorate of Idlib after Washington carried out an airstrike against leaders of a jihadist organization on Saturday.

The Russian army said the United States carried out its strike without “prior notification to the Russian and Turkish sides,” considering the US move as an “indiscriminate use of military flights.”

At least forty jihadist leaders were killed in the US strike, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The spokesman for the US Central Command Colonel Earl Brown said on Saturday that the attack north of Idlib city targeted the leaders of the “Qaeda organization in Syria,” which Washington blames for “attacks that threaten US citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians.”

 

Relative Calm in Idlib

2 September 2019

Relative calm prevails in Idlib governorate in northwest Syria, as the Syrian government and its Russian ally observe a “unilateral ceasefire” with jihadists and opposition factions, despite skirmishes that left five fighters dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The truce entered into effect Saturday morning after four months of bloody bombardment that killed more than nine hundred and fifty civilians and a ground offensive that allowed the government to retake strategic areas, according to the SOHR.

On Saturday night, three fighters allied to the government were killed by an anti-tank missile that hit their vehicle in northwest of Hama governorate, which is adjacent to Idlib governorate, according to Abdul Rahman who blamed “a jihadist faction” for this incident.

On Sunday morning, two fighters from opposition or jihadist factions were killed as a result of targeting a village southeast of Idlib with missiles, according to the same source.

 

Emirati Defiance

30 August 2019

A delegation of forty Emirati businessmen participated in a commercial exhibition sponsored by the government in the Syrian capital, defying a US warning against doing commercial transactions with the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its partners.

The Emirates, a key US ally in the area, started to forge closer ties with Damascus to counter the influence of rivals Iran and Turkey. It reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, angering the United States.

 

Tanker to Syria?

30 August 2019

Turkey said on Friday that the Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya, which is at the center of a confrontation between Washington and Tehran, was headed towards Lebanese waters, but the United States later said the ship was sailing to Syria.

According to Refinitiv tracking data, the Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, after changing course several times headed on Friday to Turkey’s Iskenderun port, two hundred kilometers north of Syria’s Baniyas refinery, the tanker’s suspected original destination.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that if the tanker went to Syria, Washington would take every action it could consistent with US sanctions.

 

Three Million in Danger

29 August 2019

The United Nations envoy to Syria Geir Pedersen said on Sunday at the Security Council that the “counter-terrorism” operations carried out by Damascus with support from Russia cannot justify putting three million civilians in danger in the Idlib region.

Based on an initiative put forward by Belgium, Kuwait, and Germany, the Security Council will vote at an unspecified date on a draft resolution demanding immediate cessation of hostilities in northwest of Syria, while protecting civilian, and especially medical facilities. The draft also calls for facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Syria.

Russia has previously used its veto power twelve times in the Security Council to block the adoption of resolutions on Syria.

 

Israeli Bombardment and Identification

28 August 2019

The Israeli army on Thursday identified the names of three Iranian officers and a member of Hezbollah it said were working on producing high precision missiles in Lebanon.

The three Iranians mentioned by the spokesman of the Israeli army Jonathan Conricus in a press release are Mohammed Hussein Zadah Hijazi, Majed Nawwab, and Ali Asrar Norozi.

Information indicates that Israel has foiled attempts to smuggle precise missiles from Iran to Lebanon through Syria since 2013, leading Hezbollah to refrain from transporting whole missiles and resort to transporting parts and pieces that are then assembled in Lebanon.

Israel renewed its bombardment of positions near Damascus, killing two members of Hezbollah.

 

Kurdish Withdrawal at US Request

26 August 2019

An official in the coalition led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) said that the YPG would withdraw its forces and heavy weapons from a strip along the border between Syria and Turkey according to agreements between the United States and Turkey.

Kurdish-led authorities, which administer vast areas in northeast Syria, also said that the withdrawal of the YPG from the border towns of Tal Abyadh and Ras al-Ain in the past few days demonstrates their seriousness in the ongoing talks.

This development is a sign of progress in talks between the United States and Turkey which seek to resolve the deep differences over the presence along the border of Kurdish fighters (US allies) that Ankara sees as enemies.

After Ankara repeatedly warned that it would launch a military incursion into northeast Syria to drive the YPG away from the border, Turkey and the United States said this month that they had agreed on the first stages of a security agreement along the border.

The two countries did not give any details of the agreement on what Turkey called a “safe zone” inside Syria.

A Turkish official and a Syrian Kurdish official said that the depth of the zone remains a sticking point as Turkey wants it to extend thirty-two kilometers inside Syria.

The spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mustafa Bali told Reuters that the strip along the border would vary between five and fourteen kilometers and include rural areas or military positions, not cities or towns.