Executive Summary for February 23rd

We review the key developments in Syria, including no agreement on a cease-fire in East Ghouta as the death toll continues to climb, the YPG calling on the Syrian army to enter Afrin and reports of rebel infighting in the northwest.

Published on Feb. 23, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

No Agreement on Ghouta Cease-Fire as Five-Day Death Toll Exceeds 400

Airstrikes and artillery attacks on the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus killed at least 46 people on Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Thursday’s death toll raises the number of people killed in the besieged suburbs since Sunday night to more than 400.

Meanwhile, Russia said there was “no agreement” in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution drafted by Sweden and Kuwait demanding a one-month cease-fire in Syria to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the draft resolution on Friday, according to Reuters.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. described the draft resolution as “severed from reality,” adding that Moscow would propose amendments to make it more feasible.

Rather than demanding an immediate cease-fire, the amendments would call on all parties to “stop hostilities as soon as possible,” and “work for an immediate and unconditional de-escalation of violence” and a 30-day “humanitarian pause,” according to the Associated Press.

The deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Kelley Currie, accused Russia of “appearing to be intent on blocking any meaningful effort” to end hostilities in the rebel enclave, according to Reuters.

YPG Calls on Syrian Army to Deploy in Afrin

Kurdish YPG fighters called on the Syrian army on Thursday to bolster their forces in the fight against Turkish troops and allied rebels in the northern district of Afrin, Reuters reported.

Militiamen loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad deployed in Afrin in recent days as part of an alleged agreement between Damascus and the YPG, but the Syrian army itself has not entered the Kurdish enclave.

“Groups aligned to the Syrian army came to Afrin, but not in the quantity or capacity to stop the Turkish occupation,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters. “The Syrian army must fulfill its duty … to protect Syria’s borders.”

Russia reportedly intervened to prevent the Syrian government from sending troops to defend the Kurdish enclave, Reuters said.

The deployment of Syrian soldiers would bring Damascus closer to a direct confrontation with Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army rebels who have been battling the YPG in Afrin since Ankara launched “Operation Olive Branch” last month.

Rebel Infighting Rocks Syria’s Northwest

Some of the largest rebel groups in Syria’s northwest are battling al-Qaida-linked militants in Idlib province and adjacent territory in Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ahrar al-Sham and Suqour al-Sham have been attacking positions of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS) in Idlib over the past week, seizing a string of towns and villages from militants, according to the United Kingdom-based SOHR.

HTS, which is led by al-Qaida’s former affiliate in Syria, is also coming under attack by the Nour al-Din al-Zinki movement in western Aleppo, according to the monitoring group.

This week’s clashes mark some of the fiercest battles between rebels in months.

Reports of rebel infighting first surfaced last week, when Nour al-Din al-Zinki fighters opened fire on a vehicle carrying a prominent HTS official and his wife. Rebels shot at the car because it failed to stop at a checkpoint, the SOHR said.

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