Syria Situation Report: September 2 - September 8, 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:

September 1 - 2: Regime Negotiates Limited Evacuation from Moadamiyah in Western Ghouta: Regime forces evacuated more than three hundred civilians from the opposition-held town of Moadamiyah in the western Ghouta Suburbs of Damascus to shelters in nearby regime-held terrain. The evacuees were originally from the neighboring opposition-held town of Darayya, which concluded an evacuation deal with the regime on August 27. The agreement comes amidst reports of preparations to implement a similar deal in Moadamiyah that includes the disarmament and reintegration of opposition fighters as part of a joint police force. Fighters who reject the deal would be evacuated to northern Syria.

September 5: IS Conducts Wave of Major Bombings Across Syria: IS conducted five major attacks in a coordinated wave of suicide bombings throughout Syria. IS detonated two suicide vehicle-borne IEDs at regime checkpoints in Qura al-Assad outside Damascus as well as the majority-Alawite Zahraa District of Homs City, killing at least seven individuals. IS conducted a dual suicide vehicle-borne and vest IED attack targeting a regime checkpoint at the entrance to Tartus City on the Syrian coast, killing at least thirty bystanders. IS also detonated an suicide vest at a checkpoint run by the Syrian-Kurdish ‘Asayish’ (police force) in Hasakah City, killing at least five individuals.

September 6: UN Reports 100,000 Displaced in Northern Hama Province: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that ongoing fighting in northern Hama Province has forced at least 100,000 civilians to flee to regime-held Hama City as well as opposition-held towns of southern Idlib Province. Opposition forces have seized at least three large towns and numerous checkpoints from pro-regime forces since the start of an offensive in northern Hama Province on August 28.

September 4 - 5: Ahrar Al-Sham Clashes with Jund Al-Aqsa in Idlib Province: Fighters from Salafi-Jihadist group Jund al-Aqsa attempted to assassinate a local military leader from Salafi-Jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham in Ariha near Idlib City, prompting clashes between the two groups. A suspected Jund al-Aqsa fighter later detonated a suicide vest near the local military headquarters for Ahrar al-Sham, killing at least three fighters. The two sides reached a tentative truce following mediation by the Jaysh al-Fatah Operations Room, which called on both parties to withdraw from local checkpoints and submit to the rulings of an appointed sharia court.

September 4 - 5: Pro-Regime Forces Reinstate Siege of Aleppo City: Pro-regime forces backed by heavy Russian airstrikes seized the Ramouseh Artillery College following clashes with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra - and other opposition groups in the Jaysh al-Fatah Operations Room, reinstating a siege on the opposition-held districts of eastern Aleppo City. Opposition forces originally seized the complex on August 6. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, Salafi-Jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, and members of the Fatah Halab Operations Room later launched a counter-attack in the Amiriyah District of Aleppo City that included the detonation of a remote controlled vehicle-borne IED.

September 3: U.S. Envoy to Syria Informs Opposition of Proposed US-Russia Deal: US Special Envoy to Syria Michael Ratney sent a letter to opposition representatives stating that the US and Russia could reach a deal on Syria in the near-future. The letter stated that the deal calls for a halt to regime airstrikes on opposition-held areas and the withdrawal of pro-regime forces from the Castello Road in Aleppo City to create a ‘demilitarized zone’ for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the city. In exchange, the US and Russia will coordinate in targeting Al-Qaeda in Syria. Anonymous diplomatic sources previously stated that the proposed deal would allow pro-regime forces to retain checkpoints on the Castello Road but blocked any interference with humanitarian shipments cleared by the UN.

September 4: Turkey and Allied Opposition Groups Clear IS from Syrian-Turkish Border: Opposition forces backed by the Turkish Armed Forces cleared IS from its last remaining terrain along the Syrian-Turkish Border following the deployment of at least twenty-five armored vehicles to Al-Rai in northern Aleppo Province as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. The US supported the operation with airstrikes as well as High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) based in southern Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan reiterated his calls for the establishment of a “no-fly zone” along the border region in order to allow for the resettlement of refugees. Meanwhile, opposition groups participating in the offensive announced the creation of a military zone over the IS-held town of Al-Bab and its environs in preparation for future operations.

September 2 -3: US Envoy Visits Kurds in Northern Syria: US Special Envoy to the Anti-IS Coalition Brett McGurk met with representatives of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a coalition composed of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG and allied opposition groups - near Ain al-Arab (Kobane) and Hasaka City in northern Syria. McGurk pledged continued support for the group but called on the SDF to maintain “strict adherence to its prior commitments” to withdraw the YPG to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River following the seizure of Manbij from IS. The visit follows clashes between the SDF and opposition forces backed by the Turkish Armed Forces near Jarabulus in northern Aleppo Province in August.

September 2 - 3: Opposition Group Defects from Syrian Democratic Forces: Liwa al-Tahrir reportedly defected from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)  following clashes with the YPG in northern Raqqa Province. Opposition sources stated that the clashes began after Liwa al-Tahrir refused to participate in operations against opposition groups backed by the Turkish Armed Forces near Manbij in eastern Aleppo Province. The sources also cited the “marginalization” of the Syrian Arab Component of the SDF.

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