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Executive Summary for August 22nd

We review the key developments in Syria, including increased Russian airstrikes on ISIS positions in Deir Ezzor, reports that North Korea is sending weapon shipments to Syria and the postponement of talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

Published on Aug. 22, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Russia Steps Up Aerial Campaign in Deir Ezzor

At least 200 fighters of the so-called Islamic State were killed by a Russian airstrike on a militant convoy heading to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, Al Jazeera reported on Monday, citing Moscow’s Defense Ministry.

It was not immediately clear when the attack took place, but Al Jazeera cited the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying that a Russian airstrike targeted an ISIS convoy in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor on Friday.

The monitoring group said that only 70 ISIS fighters were killed in the attack.

The Russian air raid, which also destroyed at least 20 vehicles, is part of an intensified aerial campaign that aims to help the Syrian government drive the jihadi group from one of its last strongholds in eastern Syria.

According to Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, Russian fighter jets have flown more than 900 missions, killed 800 ISIS militants and destroyed 40 armored vehicles this month alone.

He added that Russian jets are now making 60 to 70 flights a day to target ISIS militants heading from other areas to join the upcoming battle in Deir Ezzor, the Associated Press reported.

On the ground, Syrian troops and allied fighters are pushing toward the oil-rich eastern province from three directions, with the aim of encircling the militants.

U.N. Panel Investigates Arms Cooperation Between Syria and North Korea

U.N. experts are investigating purported weapon deals between Syria and North Korea after two shipments to a Syrian government agency were intercepted, Reuters reported on Monday.

It was not immediately clear what the North Korean shipments contained or when the interception occurred, but they were en route to a Syrian agency responsible for the country’s chemical weapons program, according to Reuters.

“The panel is investigating reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation between Syria and the DPRK (North Korea),” read a report submitted by the panel of experts to the U.N. Security Council earlier this month.

Reuters said that the activities between Syria and North Korea that U.N. experts were investigating included “cooperation on Syrian Scud missile programs and maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles air defense system.”

Astana Talks Postponed till September

Upcoming talks between Russia, Turkey and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana have been pushed from late August to mid-September, Reuters reported on Monday.

“According to the information we have received from Russia, the guarantor states, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, plan to hold a technical meeting before the end of August where they will agree on the agenda and exact dates of the next Astana meeting,” Kazakh foreign minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov told reporters. “A preliminary plan is for mid-September.”

During the most recent meeting in Astana in July, the three states failed to finalize an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones in Syria after Turkey raised objections.

The three nations met in Tehran earlier this month to hammer out the details of the de-escalation agreement, and the head of Iran’s armed forces held talks on cooperation in Syria with Turkish military leaders during a rare visit to Turkey last week.

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