Syria Situation Report: June 1 - June 8, 2017

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:

June 2 - 5: Pro-Regime Forces Deploy Reinforcements to Daraa City Amidst Clashes: Activists reported the arrival of at least 250 fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah to Daraa City and an additional deployment of pro-regime forces to the nearby towns of Izra and Khirbet Ghazaleh. The reinforcements come amidst intensified clashes between pro-regime forces and opposition groups in the Banyan al-Marsous Operations Room including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Daraa City. US and Russian officials allegedly met in Jordan in late May 2017 to discuss a potential ‘safe zone’ in southern Syria.

June 2: Russia Considers New Grain Shipments to Syria: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich stated that Russia will consider delivering “several hundred thousand tons” of grain as humanitarian aid to Syria. Dvorkovich noted that any decision would require an agreement on certain “financial conditions” such as decreased export tariffs for the Russian United Grain Company. The Russian Agricultural Ministry has reportedly sought permission to export up to 500,000 tons of grain from state stockpiles to free up its storage.

June 5: Opposition Group Downs Regime Warplanes in Eastern Rif Dimashq: Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated Jaysh Asoud al-Sharqiya claimed to down a regime MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ fighter jet near Tel Dakwa in eastern Rif Dimashq Province, killing the pilot. An anonymous opposition official stated that the aircraft had been downed by heavy machine guns provided by the US Anti-IS Coalition. The incident comes amidst clashes as pro-regime forces advance in the area.

June 1: Foreign Opposition Backers Allegedly Form New Operations Room in North Syria: Division 13 Commander Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Saoud, Liwa Shuhada al-Islam commander Capt. Saeed a-Nokrashi, and other veteran opposition fighters claimed that the US, Turkey, and Gulf States formed a new ‘Northern Front Operations Room’ in Idlib Province. The new groups reportedly includes at least seventeen opposition groups led by unspecified “Islamist factions”.

June 3 - 4: Pro-Regime Forces Seize Last IS-Held Urban Center in Aleppo Province: Pro-regime forces backed by Russia and Iran seized more than twenty villages and the town of Maskanah in eastern Aleppo Province after IS fighters and local civilians withdrew towards Raqqa Province. Activists claimed that Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’a Militia Harakat al-Nujaba executed at least fifty civilians while detaining dozens of others. Pro-regime forces also captured parts of a mountain range overlooking the sole line of communication to Aleppo City.

June 6: SDF Launches Clearing Operations in Raqqa City: The US Anti-IS Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) formally announced the start of operations to clear IS from Raqqa City. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) Commander Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend predicted a “long and difficult fight” for the city but stressed that the offensive would “deliver a decisive blow” to IS in Iraq and Syria. The SDF and Syrian-Kurdish YPG backed by US Special Operations Forces entered Mashalab District in eastern Raqqa City and Division 17's base north of Raqqa City. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned that Turkey will “retaliate immediately” to any “security threat” posed by the operations in Raqqa City.

June 1: Iranian-Backed Iraqi Shi’a Militias Allegedly Cross Syrian-Iraqi Border: Activists claimed that Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) crossed the Syrian-Iraqi Border to seize two villages held by IS in southern Hasaka Province. PMU spokesperson Ahmad al-Asadi denied any cross-border operations by the PMU although an anonymous official confirmed a temporary movement from northern Iraq into Syria. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesperson Talal Silo reasserted that the SDF will “confront any attempt” by the PMU to enter territory under its control in northern Syria.

June 6: US Conducts Second Airstrike Against Pro-Regime Convoy Near Al-Tanf: The US launched a second airstrike targeting a pro-regime convoy advancing against opposition forces backed by the US and Jordan near Al-Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi Border. The strike reportedly killed at least seventeen pro-regime fighters and destroyed at least three armored vehicles. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) stated that the coalition targeted the convoy after it entered within a “well-established de-confliction zone” and ignored “several warnings” issued via a de-confliction line with Russia. The US conducted similar airstrikes against a pro-regime convoy near Al-Tanf on May 18. The strike also comes after Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated opposition groups launched a new offensive against pro-regime forces on the Damascus-Palmyra Highway on June 5.

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