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U.S.-backed forces launch new attacks on Islamic State in Syria

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U.S.-backed forces fighting Islamic State in Syria launched a new phase of their offensive on Thursday, a statement said, but they have not yet begun to attack the militant group’s stronghold of Raqqa city in an apparent delay in the operation. But the fourth phase of the campaign aims to clear Islamic State pockets from the countryside north of the city, the SDF statement said. It did not say when the assault on Raqqa itself would begin. “We aim to liberate dozens of villages in the Wadi Jallab area and the northern countryside and clear the last obstacles in front of us to pave the way for the operation to liberate Raqqa city”, it added.

Assad denies use of chemical weapons

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Syria’s president, Bashar-al Assad, has said that reports of a chemical weapons attack by his forces were “100% fabricated”. He told the AFP news agency that the Syrian government gave up its arsenal of chemical weapons in 2013, adding “even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them” and accused the West of making up events in Khan Sheikhoun so it had an excuse to carry out missile strikes on the government’s Shayrat airbase, which took place a few days after the alleged attack.

G-7 Ministers appeal to Russia on Syria but reject sanctions

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The Group of Seven industrialized nations on Tuesday urged Russia to pressure the Syrian government to end the six-year civil war, but rejected a British call to impose new sanctions on Moscow over its support of President Bashar Assad. “Russia can be a part of that future and play an important role”, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.Or, he added, it could maintain its alliance with Syria, Iran and militant group Hezbollah, “which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests’ longer term”. He flew straight from the summit in Italy to Moscow, carrying the G-7’s strong desire for a new start in Syria, but few concrete proposals to make it happen. Finally, the G-7 members broadly agree that Assad should go – but not necessarily when, or how. European leaders are especially conscious of the disaster in Libya, where an internationally backed ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi was followed by a descent into chaos and factional fighting and about the last week’s chemical attack, the group decided not to approve new sanctions but to ask an investigation to the Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons

The press conference in Tehran, President Rouhani: Some reforms necessary in Syria

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The press conference is underway in Tehran with over 200 local and international press covering the event. The press conference comes ahead of the presidential elections, scheduled to be held on May 19th. Rouhani is the incumbent candidate. The President commenced the press conference by hailing his administration’s various achievments including higher payments, better conditions for farmers, increase of trade balance from – 8.1 at the start of his government to – 2.6 this year, increase of agriculture products and foodstuff from 97 million tons in 2013 to in 95 118,000m tons in 2016, better healthcare and environmental conditions, and more progress in technology, especially in the field of nuclear technology after the implementation of the JCPOA. To The Wall Street Journal’s question on Iran’s next move after the US missile attack in Syria, and what measures Iran and Russia have agreed upon in regard to the Syrian conflict following the US attack, President Rouhani stressed that Iran still believes the only viable solution to end the crisis in Syria is a political approach and the progress of peace talks. He expressed regret that the US attack had hurt the process of Syrian peace talks and aided terrorists into thinking they had now an upper hand during the negotiations. President Rouhani noted that Iran-Russia-Turkey cooperation is focused on the success of Astana peace talks, while Iran-Russia-Syria cooperation is concerned with fighting terrorism on the ground; “During my recent visit to Moscow as well the telephone conversation with President Putin, we agreed on more coordination about the operations in Syria”, he added.

Escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad's allies including Russia and Iran.

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al-Assad on Sunday said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed “red lines” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally. The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad’s allies including Russia and Iran.

Netanyahu urges world to rid Syria of chemical weapons

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The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem and he said that Israel fully supports the American airstrike in Syria. He also underline the fact that Trump did it for moral reasons, in the face of horrible sights from Idlib Province, but also to send out a clear message that there is a price to be paid for using chemical weapons. “There is an existing commitment from 2013 to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, and this commitment has not yet been fully met”, Netanyahu added. “We call on the international community to complete this task. This is an opportunity for American-Russian collaboration on this particular point”. This job needs to be completed. On Friday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called Netanyahu to thank him for his support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s retaliatory strike in Syria. The Prime Minister also committed to help and accomodate Syrian refugees

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain voice support for US missile strike on Syria

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Following an apparent chemical attack against innocent civilians by President Assad’s regime and the US missile strike in response to it on Friday, Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the Kingdom’s support for the military operations against military targets in Syria. On Thursday US President Trump ordered a massive military strike on a Syrian air base and the Saudi Ministry described this action as “a corageous decision” after the failure of the international community to stop Syrian regime. Moreover Bahrain also expressed support to the military US response, saying that the action was necessary to save the lives of Syrian people.

Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria

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The EU condemns in the strongest terms the air strike that hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on 4 April 2017, which has had horrific consequences, causing the deaths and injuries of scores of civilians including children and relief workers, with many victims displaying symptoms of gas poisoning. The EU urges the United Nations Security Council to come together, strongly condemn the attack on Khan Sheikhoun and ensure a swift, independent and impartial investigation of the attack. Those guilty of violations of international law and the use of chemical weapons have to be sanctioned accordingly. In March, the EU added 4 high-ranking Syrian military officials to the sanctions list for their role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population, in line with the EU’s policy to fight the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.

The Brussels Conference: it will address the situation in Syria and the impact of the crisis in the region

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The Brussels Conference brings together ministerial representatives from over 70 delegations, including from the EU and the region but also the wider international community, the United Nations, major donors and civil society, humanitarian and development organisations. It will address the situation in Syria and the impact of the crisis in the region. The conference will assess where the international community stands collectively in fulfilling commitments made at the London Conference in February 2016 and agree on additional efforts needed to meet the needs of those affected by the crisis. Discussions will also focus on how the international community can support a lasting political resolution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process based on the Security Council resolutions.

Iran and Hezbollah threaten to open a second front alongside Lebanon against Israel in case of a future war in Syria

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We have a lot of contradictory reports, most of them unconfirmed and unofficial, regarding Israeli-Russian understandings over the war in Syria. After the launch aircraft missiles Israelo ambassador was summoned immediately. Media reports suggested that President Vladimir Putin, who is the sponsor and savior of the Syrian regime, expressed anger, while Syria’s ruler, Bashar Assad, boasted to Russian lawmakers that Putin had promised to rein in Israel. Israeli commentators wrote that the operational freedom hitherto enjoyed by the Israel Air Force is over. Since Moscow deployed its forces in Syria 18 months ago, Israel added another factor to the equation; it reached understandings with Russia in order to know each other’s interests and avoid mistakes and even dog fights between their two air forces. These understandings are formulated in the creation of direct lines of communication between the intelligence and air forces of the two countries, and are known as a “deconflicting mechanism”. So Putin on one hand understands the Israeli concerns and interests, but on another hand he  has no choice but to publicly denounce it. The recent success of the Assad regime and expected defeat of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria make this scenario more and more possible. Iran and Hezbollah hope to be positioned on the border and thus threaten to open a second front alongside Lebanon against Israel in case of a future war.Israel is committed to stop this, either by reaching another understanding with Putin, and through him influencing Assad, Iran and Hezbollah in that direction, or, as a last resort, by force.

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