Executive Summary for July 25th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the deployment of Russian military police in two de-escalation zones, gains made by Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Syrian frontier and reports that Syrian warplanes have dropped leaflets in Idlib.

Published on July 25, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Russia Deploys Military Police to Enforce De-escalation Zones

Russia deployed its military police in the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus Monday to try to enforce a de-escalation agreement in the area, the Associated Press reported.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Russian general staff, told reporters that Russian military police had set up “two checkpoints and four monitoring posts” in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs, 9 miles (15km) east of the center.

The deployment comes one day after a short-lived cease-fire agreement between government forces and opposition groups crumbled after only 24 hours.

According to Reuters, Russian military police had also been dispatched to southwest Syria on Friday and Saturday to try to enforce a second de-escalation zone in the area. A statement by Russia’s defense ministry said “two checkpoints and 10 observation posts” had been set up in the region.

Monday’s developments mark the first time that foreign personnel have been deployed to Syria to monitor compliance with a de-escalation agreement brokered by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran in May, according to the BBC.

Earlier this month, Alexander Lavrentiev, the head of Moscow’s delegation at the Astana talks, said that special units of Russian military police will be dispatched to so-called de-escalation zones in Syria to ensure protection and safety. These units, he said, will not carry out any combat operations, but will focus instead on peace-keeping missions in designated areas.

Hezbollah Makes Gains Along Lebanese Border

The Lebanese militia Hezbollah said on Monday that its battle with al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate at the Lebanese-Syrian frontier is nearing its end, Reuters reported.

Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched a joint military operation against some 3,000 militants, including al-Qaida-linked and ISIS fighters, in a section of the Lebanese-Syrian border on Friday.

Early on Monday the Lebanese militant group captured the Wadi al-Kheil area from al-Qaida-linked militants, on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

Hezbollah’s media unit described the position as “the most important base [in the area] for Nusra Front,” in reference to a militant group that severed ties with al-Qaida last year and rebranded to head the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS).

With al-Qaida-linked militants almost defeated in the outskirts of Arsal, the next stage in the battle is expected to focus on nearby territory held by ISIS militants.

“The biggest part of the operation has finished, practically speaking, with the seizing of Wadi al-Kheil. Now it’s a question of flushing out and searches – then preparation for the fight against Daesh [ISIS],” an unnamed security source told Reuters.

Syrian Warplanes Drop Leaflets on Idlib

Syrian warplanes dropped leaflets on rebel-held villages in Idlib province on Monday, asking fighters to lay down their arms and reconcile with the state, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

According to the U.K.-based monitoring group, warplanes and helicopters air-dropped leaflets on the villages of Kafraya and al-Fou’a in Idlib’s northern countryside and on the town of Ariha, south of Idlib city.

The leaflets urged all those who had “taken up arms” to hand over their weapons to the state because “the [Syrian] crisis is about to be solved and the success of the Syrian army confirms that the crisis is about to end.”

“Do not do injustice to yourselves. The future is in front of you,” the leaflets read. “So take advantage of this opportunity before it is too late … the state will look after you and welcomes your return.”

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