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Executive Summary for May 9th

We review the key developments in Syria, including a suspected Israeli strike on a military position south of Damascus, the SDF continuing operations against ISIS in eastern Syria, and more rebel evacuations from the last besieged opposition enclave in Syria.

Published on May 9, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Suspected Israeli Missile Attack Strikes Army Position Near Damascus

Syrian state media accused Israel of launching an attack on a military position south of Damascus on Tuesday, only hours after the U.S. said it would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, the Associated Press reported.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said air defense systems intercepted two missiles targeting the town of Kisweh in the Damascus countryside.

Citing the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the AP said the attack struck a weapons depot and rocket launchers that are reportedly used by Iran.

At least nine people were reportedly killed, the SOHR said. However, it was not immediately clear whether they were members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards or members of pro-Iranian militias.

Israel did not confirm or deny responsibility for the attack. But Tuesday’s missile strike took place soon after Israel announced it was on high alert because of the “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria.”

Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow on Wednesday, where he will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin to discuss military coordination in light of Tuesday’s strikes.

“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said as he prepared to depart. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination.”

Coalition: SDF Launches Final Push Against ISIS in Eastern Syria

The U.S.-backed SDF launched renewed military operations against the so-called Islamic State in Syria this week, a commander in the U.S.-led coalition told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

“This week, following an increase in coalition strikes against the final ISIS-controlled areas in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] resumed offensive operations to clear the final ISIS-held territory in eastern Syria,” British army major general Felix Gedney, a deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday.

He said the first phase of operations aims to secure the southeast portion of the Syria-Iraq border in coordination with the Iraqi security forces.

The SDF had paused operations against ISIS after Turkey launched an assault on the northwestern district of Afrin in January. However, hundreds of SDF fighters have returned to the front lines in eastern Syria in recent weeks to resume operations against the militant group.

The SDF last week announced the start of a final phase of operations against ISIS in eastern Syria, aiming to end the militant group’s hold over parts of eastern Syria “once and for all.”

Evacuations Continue From Last Besieged Rebel Enclave in Syria

A second batch of rebel fighters and their families left an enclave between the cities of Hama and Homs on Tuesday as part of a Russian-backed evacuation deal, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Around 72 buses left the area en route toward opposition-held areas in Syria’s north.

Tuesday’s evacuations come one day after 62 buses left the enclave as part of the same evacuation agreement reached between rebel forces and the Syrian government on May 2.

Another round of evacuations is expected on Wednesday, the SOHR said.

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