Syria Situation Report: November 3 - November 10, 2016

Welcome to the latest installment of the Syria SITREP highlighting key developments in the Syrian Civil War. The SITREP Map is made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. To download the SITREP Map as a PDF, see below. Here's what happened in Syria this week:

November 9: Opposition Groups Launch Battle in Southern Syria: The Jaysh al-Hermon Operations Room launched the Battle of the ‘Flames of Hermon’ in Northern Quneitra Province with an aim to seize pro-regime positions on the outskirts of the town of Hader. The participating opposition groups include Jabhat Fatah a-Sham.

November 5: Negotiations Fail for Evacuation of Khan a-Shih: Activists reported that initial negotiations brokered by the regime for the evacuation of the opposition-held town of Khan a-Shih in the Western Ghouta suburbs of Damascus failed following disagreements over several technical issues. The proposed evacuation reportedly called for opposition fighters to be transferred to either Daraa Province in Southern Syria or Idlib Province in Northern Syria. Opposition groups later resumed clashes with pro-regime forces.

November 3: Islamic State Destroys Russian Helicopter in Eastern Homs Province: IS destroyed a Russian Mi-35M ‘Hind E’ attack helicopter with rocket fire after the aircraft made an emergency landing near Huwaysis in Eastern Homs Province. Russia confirmed the loss of one of its helicopters after sustaining ground fire in Eastern Homs Province, noting that the crew had been safely evacuated to the Bassel al-Assad International Airport on the Syrian Coast prior to the attack.

November 8 - 9: Pro-Regime Forces Advance Against Opposition in Outskirts of Aleppo City: Pro-regime forces including Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-Backed Iraqi Shia Militias seized the 1070 Apartment Complex and House of Wisdom on the outskirts of Aleppo City following heavy clashes with opposition groups in the Jaysh al-Fatah Operations Room, including Jabhat Fatah a-Sham and Ahrar a-Sham. Russia reportedly conducted airstrikes in support of the advance. The gains mark a further reversal of an opposition offensive to break the siege of Aleppo City that began on October 28.

November 8: Russia Reportedly Preparing to Renew Airstrikes on Aleppo City Within ‘Hours’: Russia could renew airstrikes against Aleppo City within the ‘next few hours’ according to officials at the Russian Ministry of Defense. The sources noted that the strikes would include warplanes from Russian Aircraft Carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ - which arrived off the Syrian Coast on November 9 - as well as “high-precision” cruise missiles launched from accompanying support ships.

November 5 - 10: Operation Euphrates Shield Continues Advance on Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province: Opposition groups backed by Turkey in Operation Euphrates Shield seized at least sixteen villages in Northern Aleppo Province following clashes with ISIS that included at least two SVBIED detonations. The advances bring opposition forces within ten kilometers of the town of Al-Bab in Aleppo Province.

November 7: Turkey Deploys Additional Armored Vehicles to Jarabulus in Northern Aleppo Province: Turkey deployed at least ten tanks and armored personnel carriers to the town of Jarabulus along the SyrianTurkish Border in Northern Aleppo Province. The reinforcements come amidst statements by Turkish President Recep Erdogan threatening to conduct future operations to expel the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the nearby town of Manbij in Eastern Aleppo Province.

November 6 - 10: Syrian Democratic Forces Announce Start of ‘Operation Euphrates Wrath’ Targeting A-Raqqa City: The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a coalition consisting of the Syrian Kurdish YPG and allied opposition groups - launched ‘Operation Euphrates Wrath’ on November 6 with a stated goal to isolate the IS stronghold of A-Raqqa City. Officials with the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the isolation phase is expected to last several months before the start of operations to seize the city. The announcement comes after U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford met with his counterpart in Turkey on November 5 and reached an initial agreement to allow the Syrian Kurdish YPG to participate in the isolation phase of the offensive. In exchange, Sunni Arab fighters drawn from opposition groups, tribes, and other local forces will lead the final effort to “seize, hold, and govern” A-Raqqa City. Gen. Dunford stated that the U.S. will deploy a “high-ranking” officer under U.S. CENTCOM to Ankara in order to oversee cooperation with Turkey, which considers the Syrian Kurdish YPG to be a terrorist organization.

November 6: Arab Fighters Affiliated with Syrian Kurdish YPG Allegedly Defect to Regime: Roughly 140 Sunni Arab members affiliated with the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) reportedly defected to the pro-regime National Defense Forces (NDF) militia near Qamishli City in Hasaka Province. The fighters reportedly served as members of the Syrian Kurdish YPG or the Syrian Kurdish ‘Asayish’ Internal Security Forces. Hasaka Province Governor Jayez al-Hamoud al-Musa stated that the “settlement” came as part of a “project of local reconciliation” to regularize the status of armed opposition forces across the country.

November 9: IED Kills YPG Commander Near Qamishli: Unidentified militants detonated a roadside improvised explosive device that killed Syrian Kurdish YPG Special Forces Commander Ali Boutan on the road between Qamishli and Qahtani in Hasakah Province. The state-run Turkish ‘Anadolu News Agency’ claimed that Boutan had been responsible for deploying fighters to conduct “terror operations” inside Turkey.

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