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Executive Summary for July 31st

We review key developments in Syria, including the kidnapping of three Hezbollah fighters near the border with Lebanon, aid deliveries to a besieged Damascus suburb and pro-government advances toward the militant stronghold of Deir Ezzor.

Published on July 31, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Former Al-Qaida Affiliate Kidnaps Three Hezbollah Fighters

A former Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida said Sunday that it had kidnapped three Hezbollah fighters along the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Associated Press reported.

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham made the announcement one day after the Lebanese militia said one of its groups had gone missing in the Arsal border region and three days after it agreed to a local cease-fire agreement with Hezbollah following a week of fighting on the Lebanese Syrian frontier.

Thursday’s cease-fire agreement grants refugees and remaining fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham safe passage from the Syrian border to rebel-held Idlib province, leaving control of this corner of the border to Hezbollah, the Lebanese army and the Syrian government.

According to Reuters, 8,000 people have registered to leave the Lebanese border region near Arsal for a rebel-held area of Syria as part of the deal.

It was not immediately clear whether the latest kidnapping would affect the evacuation agreement but Hezbollah and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham exchanged the bodies of dead fighters on Sunday in the first stage of the deal.

Aid Delivered to Damascus Suburb for First Time in Years

U.N. aid was delivered to a besieged region in the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus on Sunday for the first time in five years, Agence France-Presse reported.

Food supplies and other forms of aid were delivered the al-Nashabiye suburb, home to about 7,200 people.

“This is the first time that a humanitarian convoy has entered al-Nashabiye in five years,” an unnamed source involved in the U.N. aid delivery told AFP.

Another aid convoy is expected to arrive in the rebel-held area of al-Marj on Monday, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Last Tuesday Russia said it had delivered more than 10,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged Eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital.

Aid deliveries to the Eastern Ghouta enclave have increased since the Syrian government declared a cease-fire in the region on July 22.

Despite the truce, pro-government forces have carried out daily airstrikes and artillery attacks on rebel positions in the Jobar and Ain Terma districts of the Eastern Ghouta region, according to the Observatory. The war monitor said that at least six airstrikes and 20 rockets targeted the two neighborhoods on Sunday.

Syrian Army Advances in Deir Ezzor

Pro-government forces reached the edge of the last major town held by so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in Homs province on Saturday as part of their push toward the militant stronghold of Deir Ezzor, Reuters reported.

The Syrian army and allied militant groups reached the edge of al-Sukhna on the main desert highway between the ancient town of Palmyra and Deir Ezzor.

The advance has brought the Sukhna gas field and the heights above the town within the range of the Syrian army’s fire, Reuters cited a Hezbollah media unit as saying.

Capturing al-Sukhna would pave the way for pro-government forces to storm Deir Ezzor. The city is one of the last major ISIS strongholds in Syria, but contains a small besieged government enclave.

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