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Executive Summary for July 11th

We review the key developments in Syria, including a new opposition offensive in Aleppo, Assad blaming Western governments for terrorism in Syria and a regime mandate promising to promote citizens’ livelihood.

Published on July 11, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Syrian Opposition Launches Aleppo Offensive

Several armed opposition factions launched an offensive on government-held areas of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, on Monday.

The new offensive is a reaction to last week’s advances in the city from forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. By Friday, forces allied with the Syrian government seized the opposition’s last major supply route, effectively besieging the eastern part of the city and leaving some 300,000 people trapped inside.

A coalition of Syrian opposition groups, including al-Qaida’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and several brigades aligned with the Free Syrian Army, launched the attack early Monday morning and fired at least 300 shells into western Aleppo, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

“All kinds of heavy artillery and machine-guns are being used in the assault,” Mahmud Abu Malak, a spokesman for the Nureddin al-Zanki rebel group, told AFP.

At least nine civilians were killed and dozens more injured during the rebel shelling, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.K.-based monitoring group also reported that at least 19 government fighters were killed in an opposition attack on a tunnel in Aleppo’s old city.

Assad Blames West for Terrorism in Europe

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has accused Western governments of fanning the flames of terrorism in Europe, Reuters reported.

Speaking to a delegation of members of the European Parliament on Sunday, Assad said that the rise of terrorism in Syria that some believe has trickled into Europe is a result of Western governments supporting opposition groups in the country.

“The problems Europe faces today of terrorism, extremism and waves of refugees are caused by some Western leaders’ adoption of policies which do not serve their people,” Assad was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency SANA. “Especially when those leaders give support and political cover to terrorist groups inside Syria.”

Assad’s government has labelled all opposition groups fighting in Syria as “terrorists.”

New Syrian Government to Focus on Restoring Citizens’ Livelihoods, Amid Bombings

President Bashar al-Assad swore in new members of parliament and has instructed his new government to double down on addressing citizens’ poor living conditions and the country’s economy, according to Syria’s state-run news agency SANA.

But Assad’s political promises have had very little effect on the ground, and violence and destruction continued around Syria on Monday.

A central part of revitalizing the country’s war-ravaged economy will be to focus on Syria’s reconstruction, Assad said, despite the fact that his army and allies continued on Monday to bombard cities and towns. An airstrike, believed to be from government or Russian forces, hit a fuel market in the northern Idlib province, killing at least eight people, including a journalist who worked with Al-Jazeera, Reuters reported.

Assad also instructed the new parliament to “tackle the issues that interest citizens and to address their concerns,” reported SANA.

He did not specify which citizens in Syria he was referring to, but it’s unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of civilians in the country’s besieged areas will benefit from the political mandate. In Aleppo, some 300,000 people are besieged and unable to access much-needed humanitarian supplies as a result of the government’s advances last week.

Last month, Assad issued a decree appointing Syria’s former minister of electricity, Imad Khamis, as prime minister.

In 2012, both the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions on Khamis, with the latter stating that he “shares responsibility for the regime’s violent repression against the civilian population.”

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