Executive Summary for August 21st

We review key events in Syria, including the launch of a military operation against ISIS on the Lebanese border, a rocket attack on an international trade fair in Damascus and Assad ruling out cooperation with Western countries until they stop supporting rebel groups.

Published on Aug. 21, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Lebanese Army Launches Operation Against ISIS on Syrian Border

The Washington-backed Lebanese army launched a military operation against so-called Islamic State (ISIS) militants entrenched along the country’s shared frontier with Syria on Saturday, Reuters reported.

The Syrian army and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, have launched a simultaneous operation to clear ISIS militants from the Syrian side of the border, in the western Qalamoun mountain range.

The Lebanese army has insisted that it would not coordinate with Hezbollah and the Syrian government over the operation but an unnamed commander in the military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters that “naturally” there would be some form of coordination.

Two days into the operation, the Lebanese army managed to recapture two-thirds of territory held by militants, Lebanese military spokesman Colonel Fadi Boueid said on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. He said that troops captured 12 square miles (30 square km) on Sunday alone.

According to Boueid, 15 militants were killed in direct combat, shelling or aerial strikes on Sunday. Meanwhile, three Lebanese troops were killed by a roadside bomb that targeted their armored vehicle in a mountainous section of the Lebanese frontier that same day. On Saturday the army said that 20 militants were killed and 10 soldiers were injured.

Rockets Target Damascus International Trade Fair

At least six people were killed and a dozen others were injured by a rocket that struck an international trade fair in Damascus on Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a war monitor.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the rocket struck close to the entrance of the Damascus International Trade fair, killing six people, including two women but it did not say who was behind the attack.

Syria’s state-run news agency said the shelling inflicted casualties and blamed the rebels in the eastern suburbs of Damascus for the rocket fire, according to the Associated Press.

The Damascus International Trade Fair opened in the Syrian capital on Thursday for the first time since the conflict began in 2011.

The return of the high-profile annual event, which once attracted major investors, has been hailed by Syrian officials as a sign of revived confidence in the government of President Bashar al-Assad. “This comeback is an indication that the war in Syria is coming to an end,” Samer el-Debs, who heads the Damascus Chamber of Industry, told the AP last week.

Assad Rules Out Cooperation with the West

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad said in a speech on Sunday that he would not work with Western countries until they sever their support of rebel and insurgent groups, the Associated Press reported.

“Let’s be clear. There will be no security cooperation nor opening of embassies or even a role for some countries that say that they want to play a role in ending the crisis in Syria before they clearly and frankly cut their relations with terrorism,” Assad said in a televised speech from the Syrian capital. “At that point maybe we can speak about opening embassies.”

Assad also praised Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon’s Hezbollah for aiding his government during the conflict and said that Syria will look east when it comes to political, economic and cultural relations.

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