Executive Summary for March 30th

We review the key developments in Syria, including Ankara declaring end of Operation Euphrates Shield, Iran saying it will allow Russia to use its air bases, and a jihadist-led offensive advancing in Hama.

Published on March 30, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Euphrates Shield Operation ‘Successfully’ Over, Ankara Says

Turkey says it has “successfully” ended its seven-month military campaign in Syria, known as “Operation Euphrates Shield,” BBC News reported.

However, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim did not say if Turkish troops would now leave Syria, nor did he rule out future military operations.

“Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name,” Yildirim said.

Ankara launched Euphrates Shield in August with the aim of pushing back the so-called Islamic State from its border and repelling Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the militants. Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, as an extension to its own Kurdish insurgency.

The Turkish military and Syrian rebels were able to push out ISIS militants from Jarablus, as well as al-Bab, two strategic towns near the Turkish border.

Iran Allows Russia to Use Air Bases

Russia can use Iranian military bases to strike targets in Syria on a “case by case basis,” Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters on Tuesday.

“Russia doesn’t have a military base (in Iran), we have good cooperation, and on a case by case basis, when it is necessary for Russians fighting terrorism to use Iranian facilities, we will make a decision,” Zarif said.

Russia and Iran are the Syrian government’s key allies, and have been instrumental in helping the government regain control of strategic parts of the country.

Last summer Russia used air bases in Iran to launch airstrikes on Syria, but the operation ended quickly. It was the first time a foreign power had used an Iranian base since World War II. Iranian lawmakers said it was a breach of the Iranian constitution.

Moscow was criticized at the time by the Iranian defense minister for publicizing the move, referring to it as “showing off.”

Jihadist-Led Rebel Offensive Continues in Hama

At least 16 soldiers fighting government forces were killed or wounded in a rebel ambush in Hama province on Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group.

Rebels and allied jihadists have killed 31 pro-government forces in the past 48 hours in northern Hama, SOHR added. The rebels launched their surprise offensive in northwestern Hama province last week, taking a number of villages from government control. The offensive is led by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the former al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.

The rebels and allied jihadists are only 1.8 miles (3km) away from the northwestern gate to Hama city, the provincial capital, and 3 miles (5km) away from Hama Military Airport, according to the pro-government website Al-Masdar News.

Nearly 40,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the U.N.Al Jazeera reported.

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