Executive Summary for October 12th

We review the key developments in Syria, including a suicide attack on police headquarters in Damascus, a second Turkish reconnaissance unit deployed in Syria under HTS escort, and a coalition spokesman claiming 700 civilians have been evacuated from Raqqa since Monday.

Published on Oct. 12, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Suicide Bombers Target Police Headquarters in Damascus

At least five people were killed in a suicide attack that targeted police headquarters in the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

The monitoring group said three explosions targeted Khaled Ibn al-Walid Street, where the building of the main police headquarters is located. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosive devices outside the building, while the third bomber blew himself up at the entrance, the SOHR said.

Citing Syrian state TVAl Jazeera said the suicide bombers tried to infiltrate the police station and clashed with guards before detonating their explosives outside the building.

The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released on the Telegram app, Al Jazeera said.

This is the second such attack to target police forces in the capital this month. On October 2, at least 17 people were killed in a suicide attack on a police station in the al-Midan neighborhood. ISIS also claimed responsibility for that operation.

Turkey Deploys Second Reconnaissance Unit to Idlib

A second Turkish reconnaissance unit entered northern Syria on Wednesday, escorted by an al-Qaida-linked group, the SOHR reported.

The monitoring group said that a Turkish military reconnaissance team, accompanied by militants from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS), sought to circle around territory in the countryside west of Aleppo, in areas adjacent to Kurdish-held Afrin.

However, Turkish forces and HTS militants were barred from completing their tour by an unidentified “Islamist militant group,” the SOHR said. The Islamist group purportedly refused to allow HTS militants to advance near its positions, so the al-Qaida-linked group and the reconnaissance unit pulled back toward the Turkish border, according to the monitor.

This is at least the second time this month that reconnaissance units have deployed across Turkey’s southern border. Earlier on Sunday, Turkish forces deployed to Idlib to carry out reconnaissance activities in the area, including the creation of observation points, the Turkish military said this week. They were also escorted by HTS militants.

The cooperation between HTS and Turkish units in Syria indicate that negotiations have been taking place between Ankara and the extremist group over the former’s operations in northern Syria.

On Saturday Turkey announced the start of a military operation in Idlib that aims to enforce a so-called de-escalation zone agreement in the militant-held province.

Hundreds of Civilians Evacuated From Raqqa

Some 700 civilians were evacuated from the embattled city of Raqqa this week, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Syria said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Col. Ryan Dillon said that the evacuations are part of a larger effort by Raqqa’s Civil Council to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians, as the fight against ISIS in the province enters its final stages.

The U.N. estimates that roughly 8,000 people are still trapped in Raqqa, the AP said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces launched a campaign against ISIS in Raqqa in June. The operation has severely damaged the city and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed since it started.

The coalition spokesman said that between 300 and 400 militants are believed to be holed up in about 1.5 square miles (4 square km) of Raqqa city.

He ruled out the possibility of a negotiated withdrawal for those fighters who are now based in the city’s stadium and hospital; the latter is believed to be one of their major headquarters.

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