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Executive Summary for August 16th

We review the key developments in Syria, including reports claiming Iran is building a long-range rocket factory in Syria, the Lebanese army taking up new positions near the Syrian border, and pro-government advances against ISIS in the central Homs desert.

Published on Aug. 16, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Israel Claims Iran Is Building Rocket Factory in Syria

Iran is purportedly building a long-range rocket factory in northwest Syria, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing Israeli television reports.

Israel’s Channel 2 television aired satellite images it said were of the facility under construction near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas, according to Reuters. It also said some of the construction indicated explosives would be stored there.

It compared images of an alleged rocket factory near the Iranian capital Tehran to the structures in northwest Syria and concluded there was a strong similarity between the two.

Syria Deeply could not independently verify these claims.

The report comes one week after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned that Iran was widening its footprint in Syria and said that Tel Aviv was eyeing developments and would act against any threat.

Iran has been one of the primary backers of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad since the start of the conflict and Tehran’s proxies make up the bulk of the fighting force operating on the government’s behalf in Syria.

Lebanese Army Advances Along Syrian Border

The Lebanese army moved into new positions along the Syrian border on Tuesday ahead of a wide-scale offensive against so-called Islamic State militants stationed in the area, the Associated Press reported.

The positions captured by the Lebanese army on the outskirts of the border town of Arsal Tuesday had been cleared of al-Qaida-linked militants last week and would provide strategic leverage for future advances against ISIS militants.

In a statement Tuesday, the Lebanese army said it had found explosives and the body of an unknown person in positions previously held by militants.

According to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, the Lebanese army also shelled ISIS positions in the outskirts of Arsal for the second day in a row.

The Lebanese army has also this week been massing reinforcements in preparation for the planned offensive against militant groups entrenched near the Syrian border.

Hezbollah and the Syrian army are said to be preparing for a simultaneous attack on the Syrian side of the border.

Syrian Army Close to Encircling ISIS in Homs Desert

Clashes between the Syrian government and ISIS fighters continued in the Homs desert on Tuesday as pro-government forces inched closer to encircling the militant group, a war monitor reported.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that clashes broke out in the Homs desert near the town of al-Sukhna, which was captured by Syrian troops and allied fighters on Saturday.

The fighting comes as Syrian troops and allied fighters push through the Homs desert toward ISIS positions in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.

Earlier on Monday, the Syrian army captured a number of positions around the town of al-Koum in northeastern Homs province.

According to Reuters, recent advances by the Syrian army leave a gap of territory held by ISIS militants of around only 15 miles (25 km) between al-Koum and the town of al-Sukhna to its south.

“If the army, supported by Russian air power and Iran-backed militias, closes this gap, they will encircle [so-called] Islamic State fighters to their west in an area of land around 8,000km square [3,100 square miles],” Reuters reported SOHR as saying.

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