Syria Situation Report: December 8 - 15, 2016

Opposition forces agreed to a ceasefire in order to evacuate their remaining positions in Eastern Aleppo City on December 13 following bilateral negotiations between Russia and Turkey. The deal states that all opposition fighters and civilians who wish to depart Eastern Aleppo City will be evacuated to Western Aleppo Province. The initial wave of evacuations scheduled to begin on December 14 failed to materialize after Iran inserted new last-minute conditions that called for simultaneous evacuations from the besieged Shi’a-majority towns of Fu’ah and Kefraya in Idlib Province. The deal resumed on December 15 with medical evacuations from Fu’ah and Kefraya as well as Aleppo City. Meanwhile, ISIS recaptured the city of Palmyra in Eastern Homs Province on December 11 following clashes with pro-regime forces despite heavy air support provided by Russia. The fall of Palmyra marks the first seizure of a major urban center by ISIS in Iraq and Syria since May 2015 and demonstrates the sustained ability of ISIS to command, control, and resource major operations that exploit vulnerabilities among its opponents even as it faces increasing pressure from coalition forces in Ar-Raqqa City and Mosul. The success of ISIS in Palmyra also highlights the fragility of pro-regime forces despite their gains against opposition forces in Eastern Aleppo City.