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Executive Summary for March 28th

We review the key developments in Syria, including the preparations for a potential offensive on the last rebel-held town in Eastern Ghouta, U.S. criticism of U.N. inaction in Syria, and an updated death toll for this month’s ISIS attack on Southern Damascus.

Published on March 28, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Syrian Army Surrounds Douma Ahead of Potential Assault

Syrian troops and allied militias massed around the last rebel-held town in the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus on Tuesday, ahead of a potential assault on the area, the Associated Press reported.

The town of Douma, the most populous in Eastern Ghouta, is controlled by Jaish al-Islam rebels.

Unlike other rebel groups in the besieged suburbs, Jaish al-Islam has refused to leave the pocket and has said it is negotiating to stay in the town. The Russian military, however, has refused to have armed groups present near the Syrian capital, the AP said.

According to the AP, Russia has given Jaish al-Islam rebels 48 hours to agree to leave or face a major assault on the town. The pro-government al-Watan newspaper also said on Wednesday that the Syrian army is preparing to launch a major assault on Douma if rebels don’t agree to evacuate the area, Reuters reported.

Citing activists, the AP said some 150,000 civilians are trapped in Douma.

U.S. Criticizes U.N. Inaction Over Syria Cease-Fire

U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley criticized the United Nations on Tuesday for failing to enforce a 30-day cease-fire across Syria, Agence France-Presse reported.

Her comments came more than a month after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding a one-month pause in fighting to allow for aid deliveries and medical evacuations.

The agreement, however, has been undermined by continued fighting in many parts of the country, most notably in the embattled Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus and the northern Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

“History will not be kind when it judges the effectiveness of this council in relieving the suffering of the Syrian people,” she told the Security Council.

Meanwhile, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told the council that “the last few months have been some of the worst yet for many civilians inside Syria.”

SOHR Raises Death Toll for ISIS Attack on Damascus District

The number of pro-government fighters killed in clashes with the so-called Islamic State in southern Damascus on March 13 has risen to nearly 100, a war monitor reported on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) had previously said 36 pro-government fighters were killed in the ISIS attack on government positions in the al-Qadam district.

However, Syrian Red Crescent teams that entered the area this week have recovered dozens of bodies, raising the estimated death toll to at least 96 pro-government fighters killed, the SOHR said.

The updated death toll makes this month’s attack one of the largest since ISIS lost all of its major strongholds in Syria in recent months.

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