Israel struck a suspected chemical weapons facility near Masyaf, Syria earlier today. The facility may have been run by the Syrian regime’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which has been sanctioned by the US government for its role in producing chemical weapons and the means to deploy them.
The blow comes just two weeks after President Trump called out Pakistan for providing “safe haven” for terrorist groups operating in the region and advocated for closer ties with India.
An Islamic State production featuring the young man responsible for stabbing rampage in the Russian city of Surgat is similar to past videos released by the group. The jihadist swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi before his day of terror. The video also contains a clip of a young Russian child beheading a captive.
A complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan would have been disastrous. The US government needs to drastically reassess America’s jihadist enemies and avoid the policy pitfalls of the past.
Bashar al Assad’s forces and allies are advancing on the Islamic State’s stronghold in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. The two sides have fought in Deir Ezzor for years and the Assad regime is hoping to turn the tide of battle with the help of Russian airpower.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency quickly claimed credit yesterday for a shooting in the Russian city of Khabarovsk that left at least one FSB officer dead. However, the Russian government claims that “information” about the gunman “points to his being a member of a neo-Nazi group.”
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.
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.
Russia is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban, arguing that the jihadist group should be considered a bulwark against the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan. But the Taliban is a bigger threat to Afghan security than Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men, the organization remains closely allied with al Qaeda and its own extremism should not be downplayed.
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.
The Islamic State launched an offensive near the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs province on Dec. 8. The US-led coalition “destroyed a fleet” of 168 oil tanker trucks owned by the jihadists that same day. The Islamic State and the Syrian regime have repeatedly clashed in Homs province, especially at gas and oil fields that both sides seek to control.
Aleppo is on the verge of falling to the pro-Assad coalition. A diverse range of Syrian and foreign militias, backed by Russian airpower, have contributed to this success.
As each side converges on the Islamic State-held city of al-Bab, a military confrontation between Turkish-led rebels and pro-regime forces appear inescapable. In the meantime, tensions between Ankara and Moscow are rising yet again, risking pulling the United States and NATO further into the Syrian theater.
Top commanders in the Quds Brigade, a Palestinian militia allied with the Syrian government that operates in Aleppo, have been photographed receiving medals from Russian military officers for battlefield victories.
A top IRGC commander said the Guard, Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Syrian Arab Army provide intelligence to Russia for airstrikes in Syria.
The Islamic State’s Furat Media Establishment has released a short video allegedly showing a captured Russian intelligence agent. The man is made to address Russian President Vladimir Putin directly and plead for his life.
Moscow and Tehran have reportedly struck an agreement permitting the Russian Air Force to use an Iranian military base to conduct airstrikes in Syria.
Russia initially denied that a helicopter was downed east of Palmyra, Syria. After the Islamic State posted a video of the attack, the Russians conceded that two pilots were killed when the chopper was struck by Islamic State terrorists. Russian propaganda has blamed an American-made TOW missile for bringing down the helicopter, but the video seems to show anti-aircraft fire hitting the tail rotor of the chopper.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claims that three Russian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Syria. The claim could not be immediately verified. In recent days, the Russian-Syrian-Iranian axis has suffered setbacks along the same road where the Russians were allegedly killed. [Update: A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman subsequently denied Amaq’s claim.]
The Islamic State’s Caucasus Province claimed responsibility for two attacks in Dagestan on Mar. 29 and Mar. 30. Russian officials have confirmed that explosions occurred on those days, but the government’s version of events differs from the Islamic State’s claims.
The Syrian Army claims to have retaken the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State. Bashar al Assad’s forces, backed by their Iranian and Russian allies, are battling Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s jihadists on several fronts. The Islamic State frequently claims “martyrdom operations” against Syrian regime fighters in Aleppo province, Deir Ezzor, and elsewhere.
The Syrian regime is trying to recapture the city and Russian troops appear to be helping in the endeavor. This also comes just days after Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will be withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria.
It is unclear if the US or Russia killed Amr al Absi, the Islamic State’s governor for the Syrian province of Aleppo. The US launched an airstrike in northern Syria on March 3, where Absi is said to have been killed.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has invested significant resources to prop up Bashar al Assad’s regime. Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who oversees all of the Shiite militias active in Syria, is directing operations in the battle of Aleppo.
Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham have issued eulogies for Zahran Alloush, the leader of Jaysh al Islam, who was killed in an airstrike outside of Damascus on Dec. 25. Alloush portrayed himself and his organization as “moderate” in comparison to the Islamic State, but that was not an apt description for him.
The Islamic State released a photograph of the bomb as well as what it claims are images of passports of Russians who were killed in the explosion and subsequent crash, in issue number 12 of its English language magazine, Dabiq.
With the help of Russian airstrikes, Bashar al Assad’s military and paramilitary allies have broken the Islamic State’s siege of the Kweiris air base in Aleppo province. Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militant organizations supported the Syrian military’s offensive.
The Islamic State’s Aleppo “province” has released a video congratulating its brothers in the Sinai “province” for downing a Russian airliner on October 31. The video is at least the fourth time that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the crash. The group has not provided evidence proving its culpability thus far, but Western officials say it is increasingly likely.
Russian airstrikes targeted the Islamic State throughout Syria this past week. The self-declared “caliphate” released dozens of propaganda photos claiming that the Russians damaged bridges and buildings in Raqqa, and killed civilians in a marketplace in Al Bukamal. Civilian casualties have been confirmed by other sources. Meanwhile, Western officials say it is increasingly likely that the Islamic State’s co-called Sinai “province” downed a Russian airliner in the Sinai on October 31.