ISIS has claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed four Americans and at least 10 other people in the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday. Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014. The ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack in the northern city of Manbij was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest.
The United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy in Damascus on Thursday, marking a diplomatic boost for President Bashar al-Assad from a U.S.-allied Arab state that once backed rebels fighting him. “The UAE decision … came after a conviction that the next stage requires the Arab presence and communication in the Syrian file,” tweeted Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs.
Russia has branded as “provocative” an alleged Israeli air strike on Syria late on Tuesday. Israel has not commented, but after the reported strikes it said it had fired at a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. It did not report any damage or injuries. It says it is acting to thwart advanced weapons transfers from Iran to the Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and the strengthening of Iran’s military presence in Syria.
The Trump administration announced that US troops will be pulled out of Syria immediately saying the Islamic State has been ‘defeated’ and that a transition is taking place to the ‘next phase of the campaign.’ The White House says the US remains ‘ready to re-engage at all levels’ in defense of American interests.
More than 100 people were taken to hospitals in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, after a suspected poison gas attack over the weekend. As President Bashar Assad’s regime traded blame for the alleged attack with anti-government rebels, Russian warplanes backing Assad’s forces hammered rebel targets. The attack took place on Saturday night in the now-government-controlled city of Aleppo, which has been the site of some of the fiercest battles in Syria’s civil war.
Syria’s National Museum reopened after closing six years ago due to the civil war. Syrian officials claimed the museum’s reopening was a sign of a return to normal life. Syria’s Minister of Culture said the reopening ‘is a genuine message that Syria is still here.’ Most museum pieces were evacuated to secret locations for protection.
Russia will send new anti-aircraft missiles to Syria a week after a Russian aircraft was accidentally shot down by Syrian forces during an Israeli airstrike. Israel said giving the S-300 defense system to ‘irresponsible actors’ will enhance danger in the region. The Trump administration warned Russia that providing the system would be a ‘major mistake.’
A Russian military plane was accidentally shot down by Syrian forces on Monday following an Israeli airstrike on Syrian territory. The Kremlin initially blamed Israel for the accident which killed all 15 Russian service members aboard the plane. Russian Vladimir Putin blamed ‘a chain of tragic accidental circumstances,’ deflecting the sole blame from Israel.
Russia and Turkey agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Syria’s Idlib province to separate rebel fighters and government forces and prevent a humanitarian crisis. The zone will be patrolled by Russian troops backing the Syrian government and Turkish troops siding with the rebels. The zone will be between 9 to 12 miles wide.
Russian and Syrian warplanes attacked a rebel stronghold in Idlib on Tuesday, killing 13 civilians. The attack came days before a scheduled meeting between Russian, Iranian, and Turkish leaders. The offensive happened amid UN requests for Russia and Turkey to help prevent a ‘bloodbath.’ President Trump warned an attack could cause ‘human tragedy’ on Monday.