Syrian airstrikes hit a courthouse and prison associated with Al Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, killing both guards and prisoners. Reports differ as to the number killed.
23 Syrians die of starvation as government forces besiege the town of Madaya in Syria. Damascus permits MSF to access the town, but refuses to allow residents to leave as they continue to lay siege to the city.
French fighter planes carry out their biggest bombing raid in Syria, dropping 20 bombs on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. The fighters were launched from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said France had the “legitimacy” to take action against ISIS after the terror attacks in Paris. ISIS casualties are reported, but no civilian casualties. The French Defence Ministry
The first target destroyed was used by ISIS as a commanding post, a jihad recruitment center and a depot for arms and munitions. The second target housed a terrorist training camp.
Syrian government forces, backed by members of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, advance from different directions in the mountain resort of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon. The fighting comes as Ahrar al-Sham insurgent group say that it has stopped communicating with Iranian mediators after they insisted that fighters and residents leave the resort. Ahrar al-Sham says the government aims to clear out the area’s Sunni Muslim population. Syrian opposition groups accuse the government and Hezbollah of displacing thousands of Sunnis from areas along the border with Lebanon and preventing them from returning to their homes.
Coalition warplanes target areas held by the Islamic State group near the town of Tabqa in the northern province of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, a local activist group. The Observatory says the airstrikes killed at least five IS fighters and wounded 23, including teenage fighters of the so-called ‘Cubs of the Caliphate.’
The U.S., and its allies launch coordinated airstrikes on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. At least 23 airstrikes are conducted over the two nations, with nine launched over Syria and 14 launched over Iraq. These airstrikes target tactical units and fighting positions in seven cities between the two countries.
ISIS conducts a 24-hour “killing rampage” through the Kurdish town of Kobane, Syria. A majority of those slain are mainly women and children. Over 120 civilians are reported executed in their homes or killed by rocket and sniper fire. The killings are widely seen as vengeance for a series of defeats inflicted on ISIS by Kurdish militia in recent weeks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime forces had taken the villages of Bashkawi and Sefat and are battling to block the key highway leading from rebel-held east Aleppo to the Turkish border. The fighting stops traffic on the road, which passes through the town of Tal Rifat and up to the border. They also says fierce clashes are also raging between rebel forces and government troops in the nearby villages of Ratyan and Hardtaneen. It says regime fighters are shelling the town of Hayan, which lies on the road to two government-held villages that rebels have besieged for more than 18 months. Observatory director:
The regime troops have two goals in the area: to cut the road leading from Aleppo to the Turkish border, which is the key supply road for the rebels and to open the way to (besieged) Nubol and Zahraa,
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says airstrikes by the Assad government have killed at least 232 civilians in the last two weeks. Among the weapons deployed, the regime has dropped least 401 barrel bombs on rebel-held areas in eight provinces. The regime says that it only uses the weapons against terrorists. A refugee camp in Idlib was hit. A man who says his house in Anadan has been destroyed by barrel bombs three times:
Barrel bombs kill those we love most, they destroy houses, dreams and memories, and leave us without any hope that the killing will ever stop.
Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front, who were meant to form the main line of attack against ISIS and have been receiving heavy weapons including GRAD rockets and TOW anti-tank missiles, surrender military bases and weapons supplies to Nusra, the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate, as it storms villages in Idlib. Nusra members announce on Twitter that they have seized the TOW missiles. Some of the rebels are reported to defect to Nusra.
Hagel says that the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria will depend on local opposition:
The best counterweight against Isil are local forces
U.S. troops will not engage the group directly:
American forces will not have a combat mission.
He says U.S. forces in Iraq will operate out of Baghdad and Irbil, for a total of about 1,600 troops. will support Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training grounds for more than 5,000 Syrian opposition forces, who will be given small arms, vehicles and communications equipment and training:
We would be prepared to provide increasingly [sophisticated] types of assistance.
The U.S. will select the Syrian opposition carefully:
A rigorous vetting process would be critical to the success of this program. There will always be risks. But we believe that risk is justified.
Cameron resists calls for the UK to join the U.S. in conducting airstrikes on ISIS. With the threat posed by ISIS to UK citizens underscored by the group’s execution of Haines, Cameron says the nation will stick with its approach of diplomatic pressure, supporting U.S. action and helping Iraqi and local Kurdish authorities. Televised statement:
As this strategy intensifies, we are ready to take whatever steps are necessary to deal with this threat and keep our country safe. Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle, and ultimately destroy ISIL (IS) and what it stands for. We will do so in a calm, deliberate way, but with an iron determination.
Abbott announces that Australia will deploy 400 air force personnel and 200 special forces troops to the United Arab Emirates where they will be based at a U.S. facility in preparation for possible military operations against ISIS. Eight Super Hornet jets, an EWAC (Early Warning and Control) plane and a tanker aircraft for aerial refueling will be deployed. He tells reporters in the Northern Territory capital city Darwin that the government considers the deployment ‘prudent and proportionate’, but that there there are ‘obviously further decisions to be taken’ before Australian forces commit to combat action.
I have to warn the Australian people that should this preparation and deployment extend into combat operations, that this could go on for quite some time
Obama is prepared to expand airstrikes to Syria in order to combat ISIS and does not believe that he needs approval from Congress, people who participated in talks on the issue say. They say Obama discussed his plans at a White House dinner with a bipartisan group of foreign policy experts and said he has authorization that striking the group on both sides of the Iraqi border to protect U.S. national security. Center for a New American Security CEO and former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy:
This is not an organization that respects international boundaries. You cannot leave them with a safe haven. . . . I expect him to be very candid.
…essentially operating in a virtual safe haven in Syria. That’s a dangerous situation.
Airstrikes by the Syrian military targeting ISIS in its stronghold city of Raqa kill at least 53 people. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman:
We have documented the deaths of 31 civilians, among them five women and three children, in Raqa and its surroundings.
Another 15 militants are confirmed dead in a string of eight air strikes, as well as seven other unidentified people. Eight of the civilian victims are from one family.
Obama says that while he has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey for ‘a range of options’ for confronting ISIS, military plans are currently limited to protecting U.S. personnel in Iraq and do not extend to action in Syria. To reporters:
Our core priority right now is just to make sure our folks are safe
Syrian fighter jets unleash more than two dozen airstrikes on the ISIS stronghold city of Raqqa, killing at least 31 militants and wounding dozens more. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 26 strikes hit ISIS-controlled buildings, including the military court and bases in the city. Sources say that at least six civilians are killed and 10 injured in the bombing campaign, which has now lasted five days. Raqqa resident:
About 30 percent of the strikes hit the Islamic State positions, the rest hit civilian areas
The Lebanese military enters the border town of Arsal and redeploys in security checkpoints following the withdrawal of militants affiliated with ISIS and Al Qaeda branch the Al-Nusra Front who held the town for five days. Thirty-five military vehicles, including two tanks, drive through the northeastern town in the afternoon, heading for the Aqabat al-Mebyaah Army post in Wadi al-Hosn, overtaken on the first day of fighting, as well as Sayadeye and other posts.
ISIS and the Lebanese military agree a 24-hour ceasefire in the border town of Arsal from 1600 GMT to allow a mediator to investigate the fate of 22 soldiers believed to be abducted by ISIS and help evacuate civilians. A security source says the army position came under fire shortly after the truce started but that it is still intact.
It is like a humanitarian ceasefire … Clashes erupted but now they have ended. The ceasefire is still on, it did not collapse. What happened was to be expected due to differences between the fighters
The Lebanese army advances into the border town of Arsal in a push to drive out ISIS militants who have seized control of the area. Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the government’s most senior Sunni Muslim:
The only solution proposed today is the withdrawal of the militants from Arsal and its environs
The Lebanese army says it has arrested Syrian rebel commander Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who initially confesses allegiance to Al Qaeda branch the Al Nusra Front. He is thought to have more recently switched alliances to join ISIS.
Interpol is searching for two teenage girls from Austria who are believed to have run away from their homes in Vienna to join ISIS. Samra Kesinovic, 16, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, have been missing since April 10. Photos on their Facebook pages apparently show them brandishing Kalashnikov rifles – in some cases surrounded by armed men. Some of the pictures have been circulating online for years, and their families believe that those pictures, and social media posts apparently by the girls, are fake. However, Austrian officials believe that the girls are located in a training camp, are already married, and are living in the homes of their new husbands. Facebook postings apparently from the two girls say that they planned to marry so that they could become ‘holy warriors’ and indicate that they are seeking martyrdom:
Death is our goal.
Sources in the Persian Gulf tell Reuters that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have set up a secret ‘nerve centre’ near the Turkish border with Syria to direct military aid and communications to Syrian rebels fighting the government. Doha source:
It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom. The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes.
The centre is located in the southern Turkish city of Adana, about 100 km (60 miles) from the border, and was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations.
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