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Executive Summary for December 15th

We review they key developments in Syria, including a second Aleppo evacuation deal disrupted, Syrians demonstrating in opposition-held areas in solidarity with Aleppo and against hard-line Islamists, and the U.S. warning ISIS may have seized heavy weaponry in Palmyra.

Published on Dec. 15, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New Evacuation Deal in Aleppo Delayed, Convoy Comes Under Fire

A second cease-fire deal to evacuate residents trapped in eastern Aleppo was delayed on Thursday morning following reported gunfire from pro-government forces on an exiting convoy, Reuters reported.

“The convoy was shot at by regime forces and we have three injured, one of them from civil defense … They were brought back to besieged areas,” ambulance serviceman Ahmed Sweid told pro-opposition Orient TV.

The process, which started nearly five hours later than planned, involved 100 volunteers and 10 ambulances from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A recent government advance backed by Russia, Iran and militias from Lebanon and Iraq ruptured rebel defenses, sending tens of thousands fleeing and trapping tens of thousands more in a remaining rebel enclave. An earlier truce and evacuation deal, brokered by Russia and Turkey on Tuesday, collapsed on Wednesday amid Iranian opposition and renewed fighting, the Guardian reported.

The terms of the new deal stipulated a cease-fire at 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Russian soldiers were prepared to lead a convoy of 20 buses and 10 ambulances transporting rebels and their families through a humanitarian corridor to opposition-held Idlib province, according to the Russian defense ministry.

The new deal would also allow the evacuation of wounded people in Fuaa and Kefraya, two predominantly Shiite villages besieged by rebels in Idlib province, a concession to Iran. Islamist rebel factions fired tens of missiles on the two towns on Wednesday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reporting an unconfirmed number of casualties.

“Thousands of people are in need of evacuation, but the first and most urgent thing is wounded, sick and children, including orphans,” said U.N. humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland. “I am really hopeful because it’s long, long overdue.”

Syrians in Rebel-Held Areas Protest War in Aleppo, Demand Rebel Unification

Opposition-held areas across Syria witnessed demonstrations in solidarity with Aleppo, with several calling for the overthrow of hard-line opposition factions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Protesters in demonstrations in towns across the Idlib, Hama, Daraa and Aleppo countryside demanded an end to the killing in Aleppo city, condemning the positions of the U.N. Security Council and the international community.

Some demonstrations also called for a unification of rebel fronts, while others demanded an overthrow of hard-line Islamist armed opposition groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria.

ISIS Gains in Palmyra Could Pose Danger to U.S.-Led Coalition

Weapons seized by ISIS in its recent advance in Palmyra pose a danger to the U.S.-led coalition, according to the head of U.S. forces fighting the group, Reuters reported.

The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) likely captured armored vehicles, guns and possibly air defense equipment or other heavy weaponry, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said on Wednesday.

“Basically anything they seized poses a threat to the coalition but we can manage those threats and we will,” Townsend said. “I anticipate that we’ll have opportunities to strike that equipment and kill the ISIL that’s operating it soon.”

A Russian and Syrian government offensive on Palmyra had pushed out the Islamic State in March, but the militants recaptured the city on Sunday.

“(They) took their eye off the ball there, the enemy sensed weakness and struck and gained a victory that I think will probably be fleeting,” Townsend said.


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