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Executive Summary for April 27th

We review the key events in Syria, including the U.S. saying it expects revitalized efforts against ISIS, Russia parading Syrian witnesses in an attempt to disprove this month’s suspected chemical attack and the Syrian army renewing attacks south of Damascus.

Published on April 27, 2018 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Mattis Expects Revitalized Effort Against ISIS, Says U.S. Will ‘Regret’ Potential Pullout

United States defense secretary Jim Mattis said he expects to see revitalized efforts against the so-called Islamic State in eastern Syria in the coming days, Reuters reported.

“You’ll see a re-energized effort against the middle Euphrates River Valley in the days ahead and against the rest of the geographic caliphate,” he was quoted as saying on Thursday, referring to lands held by ISIS.

Mattis said that French special forces had been deployed to Syria over the past couple of weeks to reinforce the U.S.-led effort against ISIS militants. He added that he expects intensified operations against militants on the Iraqi side of the border.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said they have seen fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces returning to eastern Syria to fight ISIS in the area, Reuters said.

This talk of a re-energized effort against ISIS comes against the backdrop of a potential U.S. pullout from Syria.

On Tuesday, U.S. president Donald Trump said that he wanted to leave Syria very soon. But he voiced a desire to leave a “strong and lasting footprint” in the country.

Mattis on Thursday did not specify how long U.S. troops would remain in the country but he said that Washington would “probably regret” not keeping troops in Syria to prevent ISIS from regrouping, Reuters reported.

Russia Turns to Syrian ‘Witnesses’ to Rebut Chemical Attack

Russia on Thursday presented a group of Syrian civilians to a global chemical weapons watchdog in an attempt to disprove a suspected chemical weapons attack on Syria earlier this month, the Associated Press reported.

The group of Syrians, which included an 11-year-old boy, were flown to the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, where they all claimed that no chemical weapons had been used in an attack on the town of Douma on April 7.

Their remarks contradict those of many other eyewitnesses to the attack who have said that they smelled chlorine gas, according to the AP.

Thursday’s presentation was the farthest Russia has gone to try to disprove a chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The U.S., Britain, France and their allies boycotted the event and labeled the presentation as “nothing more than a crude propaganda exercise” and an “obscene masquerade.”

OPCW investigators are in Syria, where they have launched an investigation into whether chemical weapons were used in the April 7 attack. They have twice visited Douma, where they collected samples that will be analyzed in OPCW laboratories.

Syrian Army Steps up Attacks on ISIS Pocket South of Damascus

Syrian troops on Thursday stepped up attacks on a pocket held by ISIS south of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.

The heightened bombardment comes one week after pro-government forces launched an offensive to reclaim the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district from ISIS militants.

The United Kingdom-based SOHR said increased shelling was meant to force ISIS militants to accept a surrender agreement.

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