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Executive Summary for April 1st

We review the key developments in Syria, including a series of government attacks on civilian areas in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a new report detailing Turkey’s illegal expulsion of refugees back to Syria, and continued coalition bombing of ISIS targets.

Published on April 1, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Deadly Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Ghouta

The Syrian government escalated its assault Thursday on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, killing 32 civilians.

Government warplanes struck the last remaining field hospital in the town of Deir al-Asafir, in addition to a school and two Civil Defence buildings, Syria Direct reports.

“The warplanes began flying overhead early this morning — a series of airstrikes on the towns in the Damascus countryside followed, with the biggest crime committed against the residents of Deir al-Asafir,” said Civil Defence spokesman Mahmoud Adam.

In response to the deadly attacks, the U.S. State Department said in statement that officials were “appalled” by the government attacks on civilians.

“The United States is appalled by aerial strikes on March 31, reportedly by the Assad regime, on a school and hospital in the Damascus suburb of Deir al-Asafir,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Earlier on Wednesday, pro-government forces attempted to storm the rebel-held city of Douma, but were pushed back by rebel fighters from Jaish al-Islam, the dominant Islamist faction in Eastern Ghouta.

Turkey Forcefully Returning Syrian Refugees: Amnesty

Turkish authorities have forcefully returned hundreds of Syrians through Turkey’s southern borders back into the war-torn country, according to a new report released Friday by Amnesty International.

According to research carried out by Amnesty in southern Turkey, Turkish authorities have been rounding up and deporting groups of about 100 men, women and children back to Syria on almost a daily basis since mid-January.

The report aims to highlight “fatal flaws” of the recent deal signed between the E.U. and Turkey on the resettlement and return of Syrian refugees.

“In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have wilfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

Forced returns to Syria are illegal under Turkish, E.U. and international law.

Among those forcibly returned to Syria in recent months have been children without their parents and a pregnant woman. “The inhumanity and scale of the returns is truly shocking; Turkey should stop them immediately,” said John Dalhuisen, referring to its practice of forced returns.

In reference to Turkey’s recently imposed obligatory visa rule for Syrian citizens, the report said that increased border security and the lack of any regular means of crossing have “pushed people into the hands of smugglers, who are demanding at least U.S.$1,000 per person to take people into Turkey.”

Seventeen U.S. Strikes Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

The U.S. and its allies carried out 17 airstrikes against positions held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria on Thursday.

Five strikes near three major cities in Syria hit ISIS tactical units and destroyed three of the group’s fighting positions, Reuters reports.

A dozen strikes targeted eight cities in Iraq, hitting six tactical units and destroying a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and an IED factory.

Another seven vehicles and six assembly areas were destroyed, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement on Friday.

Last week, American Special Operations Forces in eastern Syria killed a top ISIS commander, according to Pentagon officials.

The U.S. forces reportedly followed ISIS leader Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli’s vehicle until their plans for capturing him alive failed and they had to fire at the vehicle, resulting in his death.

Recommended Reads

Top image: A Syrian refugee child looks over the fence at the Oncupinar camp for Syrian refugees next to the border crossing with Syria, near the town of Kilis in southeastern Turkey, on Thursday, March 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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