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Executive Summary for May 9th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the government’s failed attempts to retake Hama’s central prison, heavy Turkish shelling of ISIS positions along the border and heavy clashes between Iranian-led militias and Islamist rebels south of Aleppo.

Published on May 9, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Regime Fails to Retake Hama Prison

Government forces have failed to retake control of the central prison in Hama, where inmates have been rioting for nearly a week.

Opposition leaders warned of possible mass executions by government forces of the 800 mostly political detainees and have urged the international community to take immediate action, according to Voice of America.

“We believe that the international community is able to prevent any possible massacre against the prison inmates,” said Taysir Alloush, a member of the political committee of the Syrian National Council, a leading Western-backed opposition group.

Videos recorded by inmates show government forces as they attempt to break into the prison by firing tear gas and live ammunition.

The prison riot was organized after prison management announced plans to transfer some political detainees to the notorious Sednaya prison, a facility in northern Damascus known as a hotbed of torture and political killings.

“Inmates are running out of food and water and even medicines are no longer being given to those in serious conditions,” said former detainee and Syrian rights activist Mazen Darwish. Last week 46 detainees were released by the regime before talks broke down.

International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have raised concern over the likely fate of the Hama inmates if the government renews attempts to storm the jail.

“This standoff should not end in a bloodbath,” said Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch. “The situation in Syria’s detention facilities and prisons is deeply unstable and prison conditions should be a priority for the international community.”

Turkish Shelling Kills 55 ISIS Militants

Turkish shelling killed 55 militants fighting with the Islamic State group (ISIS) in northern Syria on Sunday in retaliation for the group’s attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis in the past few weeks, Reuters reports.

The Turkish military shelled the areas of Suran and Tal el-Hisn north of Aleppo, as well as Baragidah and Kusakcik, taking out three rocket installations and three vehicles, in addition to killing the militants.

The border town of Kilis has been repeatedly hit in recent weeks by rockets fired from ISIS-controlled areas of northern Syria, killing at least 20 people and wounding 70 more.

Less than 40 miles (65km) north of Aleppo, Kilis is now home to nearly 110,000 Syrian refugees.

Iranian Forces Killed as Aleppo Truce Extended

Thirteen Iranian soldiers were killed in firefights with Islamist militants on Saturday during a battle to retake a village on the outskirts of Aleppo city, in one of the bloodiest days for Iranian combatants since Tehran deployed forces to support embattled Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Russia announced that the local truce in Aleppo city had been extended until Monday.

Rebel militants fighting under the banner of Jaish al-Fatah – a coalition of Islamist forces including the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front – seized the village of Khan Touman, about 9 miles (15km) southwest of Aleppo, on Friday in a battle that killed dozens people, according to Reuters.

Iran’s state-run Fars news agency quoted Revolutionary Guard officials as saying that 13 Iranian “military advisers” had been killed and 21 wounded in the battle.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said its sources on the ground had confirmed the death of 20 Iranians, including 13 advisers.

Fighting in the rural areas south of Aleppo city has escalated over the past week, despite a local cease-fire that has been in place in the city itself since Wednesday.

The Observatory said Syrian and Russian jets had intensified their airstrikes on rebel positions near Khan Touman.

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