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Executive Summary for April 11th

We review key developments in Syria, including Russia facing increasing pressure to abandon Assad, the Pentagon claiming to have destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian government’s operational aircraft and activists reporting the use of incendiary bombs on Hama and Idlib.

Published on Apr. 11, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Russia Pressured to Abandon Assad

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) nations meeting in Italy are pressuring Moscow to part ways with its ally, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Al Jazeera reported.

Italy invited foreign ministers from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar to join the G7 group to discuss Syria on Tuesday.

Russia has backed the Syrian government’s claims that it did not use chemical weapons, reiterating its support for Damascus even after an alleged chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Idlib province left 89 people dead last week.

“Returning to pseudo-attempts to resolve the crisis by repeating mantras that Assad must step down cannot help sort things out,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said on Monday.

A phone call between U.S. president Donald Trump and U.K. prime minister Theresa May on Monday led the two to agree that a “window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest,” said a spokeswoman for May’s office.

Russia is a key supporter of the Syrian government, and intervened militarily on its behalf in September 2015.

Pentagon Says 20 Percent of Syrian Operational Aircraft Destroyed

The Syrian government lost 20 percent of its operational aircraft in the U.S. airstrike on the Shayrat airbase in Homs on Friday, according to U.S. defense secretary James Mattis, BBC News reported.

The U.S. airstrike was in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government that left 89 people dead in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province.

The Syrian government would be “ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons,” Mattis said. Damascus has denied a chemical attack.

The U.S. airstrikes had “resulted in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities and 20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft,” Mattis said, adding that the government had “lost the ability to refuel or rearm aircraft at Shayrat airfield and at this point, use of the runway is of idle military interest.”

The Syrian government was able to use the air base the day after the U.S. attack, sending warplanes to target positions held by the so-called Islamic State in eastern Homs province.

Warplanes Drop Incendiary Bombs on Rebel-Held Areas, Activists Say

Syrian or Russian jets hit rebel-held areas in Hama and Idlib provinces with incendiary bombs, activists and the U.K.-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Monday, Reuters reported.

An incendiary substance called thermite was used in bombs dropped on Saraqeb in Idlib province and al-Latamneh in Hama province over the weekend, according to SOHR.

A rescue worker in Saraqeb with the civil defense service known as the White Helmets reported the use of phosphorous bombs, saying they were regularly dropped by warplanes, but said he had not heard of the use of thermite.

The government first used thermite in June 2016, according to SOHR.

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