Executive Summary for May 24th

We review the key developments in Syria, including attacks on government-controlled areas that killed 148 people, Syrian Kurds pointing fingers at Western-backed opposition and a call by the Russian government for a temporary truce in Damascus suburbs.

Published on May 24, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Bombs Kill 150 in Jableh and Tartous

Explosions killed nearly 150 civilians and wounded at least 200 in the government-controlled coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous on Monday.

The so-called Islamic State group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 148 people were killed by at least five suicide bombers and two explosive devices planted in cars.

The coordinated attack was the first of its kind in Tartous and Jableh, part of Bashar al-Assad’s coastal heartland that hosts Russian military bases.

Russia said the attacks highlighted the need to move ahead with peace talks, which have fallen apart along with the collapse of the February 27 cease-fire in April, due to intensifying violence.

“This demonstrates yet again just how fragile the situation in Syria is. And this one more time underscores the need for new, urgent steps to continue the negotiating process,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists, according to Reuters.

In a letter sent to the United Nations, the Syrian foreign ministry said the blasts were a “dangerous escalation by the hostile and extremist regimes in Riyadh, Ankara and Doha,” referring to regional capitals that support armed rebel groups across the country.

Kurds Accuse Opposition of Fueling Killing and Refugee Crisis

The main Western-backed Syrian opposition has gained nothing other than fueling killing and the refugee crisis by demanding the fall of President Bashar al-Assad, said a senior official from Syria’s northern Kurdish region on Monday.

As a date for the official announcement of an autonomous Kurdish federal region in northern Syria looms closer, foreign governments opposed to the Kurdish plans fear retaliation from neighboring Turkey.

While talks to end the five-year conflict in Syria falter, the country’s Kurds are finalizing plans for an autonomous political federation in the northeast known as Rojava, pressing ahead with the project despite objections from foreign governments, which fear Syria’s disintegration and alarm from Turkey.

“The problem is not the fall of Assad or people that are ruling, but changing (the) system,” Sinam Mohamed, a member of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), told reporters in Paris.

“It’s not a matter of fighting Assad or not. It’s how do you change the system from a dictatorship into a democratic system in Syria. Look at the other opposition, they called for the fall of Assad, but they have gained nothing but killing and many refugees.”

The main Western-, Arab- and Turkish-backed opposition body, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), has accused the PYD and its allies of supporting Assad.

Sinam Mohamed, co-chair of an alliance led by the PYD, spoke in France after the opening of a fourth overseas representative office for Rojava, following similar moves in Moscow, Berlin and Stockholm, Reuters reported.

“Our priority is to defeat terrorism and build stability in Syria,” she said.

The French foreign ministry said it did not recognize the legitimacy of the Kurdish representative office. However, France is part of the U.S.-led coalition that supports the PYD’s military wing, the YPG, in its fight against ISIS.

Russia Calls for a Temporary Truce in Damascus Suburbs

Russia called for a temporary truce on Monday in the suburbs of Daraya and Eastern Ghouta in rural Damascus, following deadly attacks by ISIS on government-controlled areas on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

Russia’s foreign ministry called for a 72-hour truce to come into effect on Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported.

Monday’s statements came following continuous demands from the United States to urge Russia to pressure Assad’s forces to halt their assaults on civilians in rebel-held parts of Damascus and Aleppo.

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry spoke to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov by phone and urged him to pressure the Syrian government to stop its attacks on Aleppo and Daraya.

State department spokesperson Mark Toner accused the Assad regime of targeting civilians with airstrikes with the aim of gaining tactical advantage. He also said that Russia “has a special responsibility” to guide Syrian forces.

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