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Executive Summary for December 21st

Every day, we review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Syrian civil war and organize them into a curated summary for both general readers and experts. This overview is your quickest way to keep up-to-date on the five-year conflict.

Published on Dec. 21, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.N. Passes Resolution on Syria Peace Process

The United Nations Security Council on Friday adopted a plan to establish a cease-fire in Syria, the beginnings of a political process that world powers hope will bring an end to the country’s nearly five-year-old civil war, the New York Times reports.

The unanimously adopted resolution is the latest in nearly two months of redoubled diplomatic efforts, headed by the United States and Russia, to find a political end to the conflict. Washington and Moscow, however, remain divided on key issues.

“This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battled land can support,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Security Council.

Later that day, Kerry commented on the difficult path ahead: “No one is sitting here today suggesting to anybody that the road ahead is a gilded path. It is complicated. It will remain complicated. But this at least demands that the parties come to the table.”

The resolution, which calls for new presidential elections within 18 months, makes no mention of the future of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Civilians: Monitor

Russian airstrikes Sunday killed dozens of people in Idlib, just days after world powers at the United Nations adopted a Security Council resolution backing a peace process to end Syria’s nearly five-year civil war.

Warplanes hit the city of Idlib at least nine times Sunday morning, killing as many as 36 civilians and militants, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory’s director, Rami Abdurrahman, said the airstrikes hit a courthouse and an intelligence building used by rebel groups in the area, the Washington Post reports.

“The courthouse was full of civilians,” he said. “The Russians have been hitting everything, killing civilians and striking whatever they want.”

The strikes coincide with the publication of a report by Human Rights Watch accusing Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s government of using cluster munitions that have killed dozens of civilians in recent weeks.

Hezbollah Says Commander Killed by Israeli Strike in Damascus

An Israeli airstrike Saturday evening killed Samir Qantar, a leader in the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, Syrian state media reported on Sunday.

Although Israel welcomed Qantar’s death, saying the man had been preparing attacks on the country from Syria, Israeli authorities stopped short of claiming responsibility for his death, Reuters reports.

Syrian state media said Israeli forces attacked a six-story residential building in the Jaramana area in the countryside outside Damascus.

“The party that gains most from the assassination of Qantar is the Zionist enemy whom we have long known for these cowardly attacks,” said Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi.

Qantar, a Druze from Lebanon, was held in Israeli jail for nearly 30 years for his part in a 1979 raid that killed four Israelis. He was repatriated to Lebanon in 2008 via a prisoner swap with Hezbollah.

Israeli justice minister Ayelet Shaked accused Qantar of supervising Hezbollah’s covert entrenchment in the Golan Heights, a mountainous area overlooking northeastern Israel.

“He set up a broad terror network on the Golan, and it is good that he returned his soul to his creator,” Shaked said on Israel’s Army Radio.

Israel’s former national security advisor Yaakov Amidror said that while he expected Hezbollah to seek revenge for Qantar’s death, the Shiite militia and its patron Iran were likely too busy with the fighting in Syria to afford a large confrontation with Israel.

While Israel has formally stayed out of Syria’s civil war, it has bombed Hezbollah and weapons bound for the group without publically acknowledging its involvement in the strikes.

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Top image: Hezbollah fighters, center, carry the coffin of high-profile militant Samir Qantar during his funeral procession in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, December 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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