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Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014) (S/2015/962) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

1 . The present report is the twenty-second submitted pursuant to paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), paragraph 10 of Council resolution 2165 (2014) and paragraph 5 of Council resolution 2191 (2014), in which the Council requested the Secretary-General to report, every 30 days, on the implementation of the resolutions by all parties to the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic.

2 . The information contained herein is based on the data available to United Nations agencies on the ground, from the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and from open sources. Data from United Nations agencies on their humanitarian deliveries have been reported for the period from 1 September to 30 November 2015. More recent data have been included, where available.

II. Major developments

A. Political/military

3 . Widespread conflict and high levels of violence continued throughout the Syrian Arab Republic in November. Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombings and ground attacks in places with a large civilian presence, including the use of barrel bombs by government forces and indiscriminate shelling by non -State armed opposition groups and designated terrorist groups, 1 continued to kill, injure and displace civilians. The conduct of hostilities by all parties to the conflict continued to be characterized by a widespread disregard for international humanitarian law and the obligation of all parties to protect civilians..

4 . Heavy fighting continued to be reported in Damascus and Rif Dimashq during the reporting period. Government forces carried out several offensives. For example, on 25 November, government forces advanced towards the village of Marj al-Sultan and regained control of the strategic Marj Sultan-Hawash road. In eastern Ghutah, the town of Duma was repeatedly hit by government forces, with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documenting at least four attacks between 2 and 22 November. According to source s on the ground, a minimum of 43 civilians, including 12 children, were killed and many more injured by the airstrikes. Elsewhere in Rif Dimashq, six air-to-surface missiles hit a residential area connecting the towns of Saqba and Hamouria on 7 November, killing two women and three children. OHCHR received reports of frequent attacks in Darayya. For example, on 8 November, six civilians were killed and three others injured when government helicopters reportedly dropped barrel bombs on the town. On 21 November, four civilians, including two children, were killed and at least 10 more injured in a similar attack in Darayya.

5 . Non-State armed opposition groups continued to launch mortars and to shell Damascus city during the reporting period. OHCHR reported tha t, on 7 November, one civilian was killed when mortars hit the al-Adawi area of Damascus city. On 10 November, according to OHCHR sources, two civilians were killed and 11 others injured when mortar rounds fell onto the Qassa’, Bab-Tuma and Bab al-Salam areas of Damascus city. Separately, on 12 November, eight civilians, including six children, were reportedly injured when a mortar struck a school in the Bab -Tuma neighbourhood of Damascus. According to reports by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, non-State armed opposition groups shelled Government-controlled areas in Damascus city with more than 28 mortars during the first week of November, which reportedly killed two persons and injured 14 others. From 9 to 13 November, Damascus was also hit by 76 mortar attacks, reportedly killing three people and injuring 32 others. From 19 to 23 November, the city was the target of 87 mortar attacks in several neighbourhoods, which reportedly killed 5 persons and injured 45 others.

6 . On 15 November, according to sources on the ground, ISIL launched an offensive against non-State armed opposition groups, including Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), in Yalda city, south of Damascus, making some minor advances in the western parts of the city, in particular in the al-Hajar al-Aswad and al-Zein neighbourhoods. The advance caused an unknown number of families to flee the area into Yalda. Non-State armed opposition groups mounted a counter-attack days later, capturing areas around al-Hajar al-Aswad. As a consequence, representatives from key non-State armed opposition groups imposed restrictions on the movement of civilians between Yalda and Yarmouk, limiting it to 10 hours per day. The route between Yalda and Yarmouk was also closed for a 24-hour period on 12 November.
Restrictions on movement were lifted in early December.

7 . During the reporting period, intensified fighting between the parties to the conflict continued in the northern governorates of the Syrian Arab Republic. On 10 November, government forces retook Kweiris airbase in the western countryside of Aleppo. Government forces have since made limited advances on ISIL, towards the village of Dayr Hafir. In the northern countryside of Aleppo, non-State armed opposition groups made advances on ISIL, seizing two small villages, Harjalah and Dahla, reportedly with support from Turkey and the coalition led by the United States of America.

8 . On 13 and 14 November, government forces advanced against non-State armed opposition groups in the southern countryside of Aleppo, gaining control of additional territories, including the villages of al-Hader and al-Eis, less than 3 km from the Aleppo-Hama highway. On 23 November, non-State armed opposition groups conducted a counter-attack, restoring their control over several hilltops and villages in the area. Between 3 and 22 November, OHCHR documented the killing of at least 40 civilians, including five children, in five separate attacks by government forces in different parts of Aleppo governorate, including the towns of Hayan, Kafr Karma and Qanatir, in addition to the opposition-controlled neighbourhoods of Aleppo city. OHCHR also reported that, in Aleppo city on 23 November, non-State armed opposition groups fired dozens of mortars on the civilian-populated area of Sheikh Maqsoud, which is controlled by Kurdish forces, reportedly killing at least seven civilians.

9 . On 24 November, a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey close to the Syrian-Turkish border. While Turkey asserted that the warplane was flying in Turkish airspace when it was shot down, the Russian Federation denied that and said the warplane was flying in the airspace of the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations does not have independent means of verification to certify the claim of either Member State.

10 . Fighting continued between government forces and non-State armed opposition groups in the northern countryside of Homs governorate. On 23 November, government forces made significant advances against ISIL in the eastern countryside of Homs, gaining control over the cities of Hawarin and Mahin.
Advances by government forces were reportedly supported by Russian air strikes on ISIL positions, including in Palmyra city and al-Qaryatayn.

11 . In Ladhiqiyah, in the north-western part of the Syrian Arab Republic, fighting intensified between government forces and non-State armed opposition groups, causing casualties and displacement among civilians. OHCHR sources reported that, on 10 November, at least 17 civilians were killed and dozens injured following two mortar attacks by non-State armed opposition groups on the city of Ladhiqiyah. On 16 November, government forces launched a ground offensive, reportedly with the support of joint Russian-Syrian air strikes, against Ghamam, Zwawik, al-Dighmshlya and Dayr Hanna. On 17 November, non-State armed opposition groups recaptured Dayr Hanna, while on 19 November government forces regained control of several hills in the northern part of Turkmen Mountain.

12 . Reports indicate that heavy air strikes were carried out by France, the Russian Federation and the United States-led coalition in Raqqah governorate during the reporting period, including repeated targeting of the New Raqqah bridge, public buildings and other critical infrastructure. The air strikes also led to interruptions in electricity and water service in Raqqah city. The National Hospital in Raqqah city has been closed since 4 November, after air strikes damaged the facility and forced patients to be relocated to neighbouring facilities. Separately, ISIL fired three medium-range missiles on 10 November, hitting villages located south of Tall Abyad and reportedly killing four civilians, including a child in Sakhrat Abdel Sheikh.

13 . In Hasakah governorate, the newly established anti-ISIL, Arab-Kurdish coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive on ISIL on 30 October. On 13 November, SDF seized the strategic village of al-Hole, reportedly with support from the United States-led coalition, and cut the main ISIL-controlled highway between Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.

14 . There were reports of fighting in Dar’a governorate during the reporting period. According to OHCHR sources, on 19 November, at least 20 civilians, including women and children, were killed when government forces fired a rocket at an olive press located along the road linking Dar’a city and Sheikh Miskine. On the same day, seven civilians, including four children, were reportedly killed in Sheikh Miskine in an attack said to have involved barrel bombs.

15 . French, Russian and United States-led coalition forces continued their operations in the Syrian Arab Republic throughout the month. OHCHR reported that, between 23 and 26 November, Russian authorities confirmed that they had carried out 134 military sorties against 499 targets in the governorates of Aleppo, Damascus,Dayr al-Zawr, Hama, Homs, Idlib, Ladhiqiyah and Raqqah. At the same time, the United States Central Command confirmed that it had conducted at least 132 air strikes in the governorates of Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr, Hasakah and Raqqah in November. OHCHR received a number of reports alleging that the air strikes had resulted in civilian casualties; the origin of the strikes could not, however, be adequately ascertained. On 2 November, two air strikes reportedly hit al-Kasrat village in Raqqah governorate, killing nine civilians, including a child. In al-Soura town in Dar’a governorate, an air strike reportedly killed six civilians on 28 November. In Dayr al-Zawr governorate, a local market in Albu Kamal was hit by two air strikes on 5 November. According to OHCHR sources, 96 civilians, including women and children, were killed in the attack, and at least 124 civilians were injured. On 20 November, at least 50 civilians, including women and children, were killed and many others injured when fighter jets carried out numerous air strikes on several areas in Dayr al-Zawr. In Hasakah, three civilians were reportedly killed and one woman was seriously injured on 10 November when an air strike hit al-Buthah.

16 . Civilian displacement continued throughout the Syrian Arab Republic in November, with over 121,500 people displaced from areas in Aleppo, Dar’a, Dayr al-Zawr, Hama, Hasakah, Homs, Idlib, Ladhiqiyah and Raqqah governorate s. For example, in Aleppo, intensified fighting in the governorate further displaced some 30,000 people who had already been displaced from the Jabal as Samman subdistrict to Idlib governorate. Additionally, 10,000 people fled the southern countryside of Aleppo to al-Atarib. In Hama, some 6,000 people fled from Kafr Zayta, Madiq Castle, Hamra and Suran to Hama city during the first week of November owing to intensified air strikes. In Ladhiqiyah, more than 10,000 people were reportedly displaced by fighting between government forces and their allies and non-State armed opposition groups.

17 . Civilian infrastructure continued to be targeted during the reporting period. In Aleppo city, the al-Khafseh water treatment and intake facility on the Euphrates River, located in an ISIL-controlled area, was hit by air strikes on 26 November. The entire facility was shut down for one day, cutting off water supplies to 3.5 million people in Aleppo governorate, including over 1 million children, before resuming partial operation the following day. Approximately 1.4 million people continue to be cut off from water supplies in rural Aleppo as a result of the incident In Idlib governorate, a large-capacity mill and a bakery serving 50,000 people per day in Saraqib town in Idlib was hit by air strikes on 27 November. The following day, air strikes hit another bakery that supplied more than 50,000 people a day, as well as a water-pumping station in Ma’aret Numan town in southern Idlib. At least five schools were reportedly hit in eastern Ghutah between 2 and 25 November, causing significant damage to their facilities. On 19 November, a number of medical clinics were also damaged, including one in Duma and another in Irbin.

18 . During the reporting period, there were developments regarding a number of local agreements. In Qadsiya city, north-east of Damascus, the Government and non-State armed opposition groups reportedly signed a new local agreement that included provisions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the release o f detainees, freedom of movement, the evacuation of fighters and the resumption of public services. Under the auspices of the agreement, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent relocated a total of 139 unarmed fighters to Idlib governorate. In the Wa ’r district of Homs city, negotiations between non-State armed opposition groups and government officials resulted in an agreement that includes the evacuation of at least 300 fighters and their family members, the surrender of medium and heavy weapons and the provision of humanitarian assistance to people in need.

19 . The week before the second meeting of the International Syria Support Group, 44 non-State armed opposition groups, including Jaysh al-Islam, met in Istanbul and agreed to form a united military council for all of the Syrian Arab Republic. A number of the participating groups subsequently met with the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces umbrella group on 13 November to coordinate positions for future negotiations under the Vienna process. Several non-State armed opposition groups from the southern part of the Syrian Arab Republic met with representatives of the military operations centre in Jordan to discuss the implications of the Vienna meetings.