The Russian government says that a gas leak was most likely responsible for an explosion at an apartment building in Magnitogorsk on Dec. 31. On Jan. 17, the Islamic State claimed that the incident was really an “operation” conducted by the Islamic State’s Caucasus province.
Hezbollah has repositioned its men for the ongoing battles in Syria.
The city of Tabqah and the surrounding area have fallen to US-backed forces. The Islamic State had controlled the city, the Tabqah dam, and a military airbase in the area since 2013-2014. The battle for Tabqah, which began with a surprise attack on Mar. 22, is a key part of the strategy to capture the self-declared caliphate’s capital of Raqqa.
The Islamic State has been battling Turkey and allied groups north of Al Bab, Syria since Nov. 2016. The US was reluctant, at first, to support Turkey’s ground operations near the town. But that changed after Turkey turned to Russia for aerial support. The Syrian regime and its allies also launched an offensive south of Al Bab earlier this month.
In a statement released last week, Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, an influential jihadi ideologue aligned with al Qaeda, criticized Turkey’s cooperation with Russia against the Islamic State. Maqdisi warned jihadists and Islamists in Syria to rethink their decision to work with Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield, which has captured significant territory from the so-called caliphate in northern Syria.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a new offensive by the Islamic State has effectively cut the city of Deir Ezzor in two. The Islamic State has battled forces loyal to the Assad regime in and around Deir Ezzor since mid-2014. The jihadis’ latest assault has exacerbated the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the city.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claims that 352 men from the Syrian Army and allied Shiite militias were killed during four days of fighting in and around Palmyra. In addition, the group claims to have recovered a significant amount of “spoils,” namely tanks and various weapons. A video recorded inside a base formerly used by Russians documents some of this war booty.
The Islamic State claims to have taken complete control over the city of Palmyra. Various reports indicated earlier in the day that the jihadists had been forced to withdraw from the city after heavy Russian airstrikes. Update: Amaq News Agency released a video of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men inside Palmyra.