Da’esh/Ramadan – A new message purporting to come from an ISIS spokesman called on followers to launch attacks on the United States and Europe during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins in early June. "Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready ... to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers ... especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America," said the message, suggesting attacks on military and civilian targets. The authenticity of the audio clip, purporting to be from Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and distributed on the 21 May 16 by Twitter accounts that usually publish ISIS statements, could not be verified. "The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us. If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic State, we wish we were in your place to punish the Crusaders day and night," Adnani said. The militant group, which seeks to establish a caliphate across the Middle East and beyond, has claimed deadly attacks over the past year on civilians in France, Belgium and the United States. But the message made no mention of the EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean on 19 May 16 in unexplained circumstances, amid speculation by Egyptian, French and American officials that a militant attack was the most likely cause. A US-led coalition, which also includes European and Arab countries, launched a campaign of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2014 after the militants seized vast swathes of territory in those countries. "Their planes do not distinguish between civilians and combatants, man or woman," the message continued, in apparent reference to the strikes.
Da’esh/Chemical Weapons – In the ace of sustained attacks by coalition forces, ISIS has moved its chemical weapons labs to densely populated residential areas in Mosul — and is testing homemade chlorine and mustard gas on its prisoners held in different facilities in and around the city, Homeland Security claimed on the 23 May 16. ISIS has been working in chemical weapons for a while, relying on the expertise of scientists who served in the chemical weapons complex of Saddam Hussein, but also on Europeans with chemical degrees from leading European universities. Deccan Chronicle reports that the leader of the organization’s chemical unit, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, was captured in Mar 16 by U.S. Special Forces, and has been sharing intelligence on the group’s chemical weapons program. Daoud al-Afari has now been replaced by Abu Shaima, an Iraqi doctor who worked at the University of Baghdad during Saddam’s years. The Iraqi media reported that residents of al-Mohandseen, which used to be a wealthy Christian neighbourhood, said that in the last few weeks ISIS had evicted families from several houses in the neighbourhood, and that large unmarked trucks have been parked outside. More recently, residents noticed dozens of dead dogs and rabbits in nearby rubbish containers. An ISIS insider confirmed to the Telegraph that the animals had been used for chemical testing. He also said that ISIS had conducted chemical tests on prisoners the organization holds in a jail in al-Andalus, a small town near Mosul. Iraqi medical authorities reported that residents living near the jail have complained about breathing difficulties, and that children in the area have developed skin rashes – both typically associated with the presence of chemical agents. ISIS has captured several chemical agents storage facilities when it ran over large area of Ira two years ago. The organization has also captured chemical precursors and weapon from Bashar al-Assad’s stocks. Da’esh has already used chemical weapons against Kurdish forces, and in Mar 16, it used chemical weapons to attack the outskirts of the Iraqi town of Taza, south of Kirkuk, killing three children and forcing about 1,500 people to seek medical treatment. Brig. Roger Noble, the deputy commander of international troops training and supporting the Iraqi army, told the Telegraph that ISIS will likely use chemical weapons against troops trying to retake Mosul. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN) and chemical weapons adviser to NGOs in Syria and Iraq, told the Telegraph the revelations showed the group was adapting to the coalition’s effective air strikes. “ISIL’s chemical weapons operation has been heavily targeted - as is detailed in this report - and moving into residential areas is exactly what you would expect them to do now.” He said Western security services should be concerned that ISIS chemical operations have effectively gone underground, allowing them to continue their work outside of strike range. “Now we know the extent of the ISIL chemical and dirty bomb aspirations we must make doubly sure that our security in the U.K. is absolutely water-tight against this threat.”
Da’esh/Counter-Da’esh Quarterly Update – Defence Secretary Michael Fallon as provided the Government's quarterly update on the counter-Da’esh campaign on the 24 May 16. With permission Mr Speaker, I want to update the House on the counter-Da’esh campaign, following the December 2015 and February 2016 statements by my Rt. Hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the International Development Secretary. Since then the attacks in Brussels in March have reminded us of the importance of defeating this terror and since the decisive vote to extend air strikes to Syria we stepped up our air campaign and today I want to set out the United Kingdom's contribution to military operations and our wider efforts to defeat Da’esh.
Mr Speaker, we now have 1,100 military personnel in the region on this campaign and I know the House will want to join me in paying tribute to them and to their families who are not with them. The RAF has conducted over 760 airstrikes in Iraq and, since December, 43 strikes in Syria – more than any other nation except the United States. As well as providing close air support, we've been targeting Da’esh’s communications, command and control, and infrastructure and also providing crucial intelligence and surveillance. In Iraq, we have over 250 troops who have trained more than 13,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, mainly in countering improvised explosive devices. The extra troops I announced in Mar 16 have now started to deploy. 22 Engineer Regiment from Wiltshire is providing bridge building training while the MOD Hospital Unit from Northallerton is providing medical expertise. Mr Speaker, the military campaign is making progress. In Iraq, Da’esh is on the back foot – it has lost territory, its finances have been targeted, and its leadership has been struck. Around 40% of the territory Da’esh once held has been retaken, including Ramadi and last month Hit and more recently Rutba. Preparatory operations for the encirclement of Mosul are underway, and at the weekend Prime Minister Abadi announced the beginning of the operation to retake Fallujah. In Syria, the civil war, the persistence of Da’esh and Russia's intervention has created a complex situation. Despite the Cessation of Hostilities, the regime has continued to hammer the moderate opposition. In Aleppo hospitals and schools have been repeatedly shelled. On 4th May, the United Kingdom called an urgent session of the Security Council to highlight the regime's atrocities. Russia, the Assad regime's protector, must apply pressure to end this violence. Nonetheless, even in Syria, Da’esh has lost ground and has been driven from al-Shadadi, a major supply route from Mosul to Raqqa. Coalition airstrikes have destroyed an estimated $800m worth of Da’esh cash stockpiles, whilst the RAF has struck oilfields in Eastern Syria – a major source of revenue. We need to build on this progress and earlier this month I and other Coalition Defence Ministers reviewed what further support Coalition countries can offer and we are looking at what more the UK can do.
Da’esh cannot be defeated by military means alone, and that brings me to our wider strategy. First, on counter ideology, the United Kingdom has lead the creation of a Coalition Communications Cell, to undermine Da’esh’s failing proposition that they're winning militarily, that they are building a viable state, and that they represent the only true form of Islam. Some in the media have criticised our proactive efforts to discredit Da’esh’s perverted ideology. I say to the House, that we make no apology for seeking to stop people being radicalised and stop them becoming Da’esh suicide bombers or foot soldiers. Second, we are supporting political reform and reconciliation in Iraq; and the ending of the civil war in Syria and the transition of Asad from power. We are helping stabilise areas liberated from Da’esh so people can return to a safe environment. We have contributed to UN-led efforts to remove IEDs, to increase water availability to above pre-conflict levels in Tikrit, and to rebuild schools, police stations and electricity generators across Anbar and Ninewah provinces. In Syria, long-term success means a political settlement which delivers a government that can represent all Syrians that we can work with to tackle Da’esh. Last week, the International Syria Support Group reaffirmed its determination to strengthen the Cessation of Hostilities, and set a deadline of 1st June for full humanitarian access to besieged areas. It is concerning that despite this agreement, attacks have continued and that armed groups are on the brink of withdraw from the Cessation. We support the UN Special Envoy in his efforts to resume Syrian peace negotiations, the success of which depends on respect for the Cessation of Hostilities, humanitarian access, and discussion of transition by both sides. Third, the UK is playing a full role, alongside our partners, in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria. At the London Conference, we doubled our commitment to Syria and the region to £2.3 billion which has already delivered over 20 million food rations and relief items for over 4.5 million people. But there remain 13.5 million people in need inside Syria. The regime continues to remove vital medical supplies from aid convoys in violation of international law. It is outrageous Mr Speaker that aid has become a weapon of war. Fourth, we're stemming the flow of foreign fighters through better international coordination. At least 50 countries now pass fighter profiles to Interpol – a 400% increase over two years. We estimate that the numbers of fighters joining Daesh has fallen to around 200 a month, from a peak of around 2,000.
Finally Mr Speaker, as Da’esh is squeezed in Iraq and Syria we've seen new branches appear, most concerningly in Libya. The Foreign Secretary visited Tripoli last month to reiterate our support for Prime Minister Serraj. I spoke yesterday to the new Libyan Defence Minister to repeat our offer of assistance to the new Government of National Accord. Last Monday the international community reaffirmed support for the new government and underlined the need for enhanced coordination between legitimate Libyan security forces to fight Da’esh and UN-designated terrorist groups. Britain would only provide training or other support at the invitation of the Libyan government or by other authority. And let me reiterate: there are no plans to deploy troops in a combat role.
Mr Speaker, since this House supported extending military operations, we have intensified our efforts to defeat Da’esh. There is a long way to go and political progress needs to match military progress on the ground. But we should be encouraged. This may be a long campaign, but it is one we have to win and it is one we will win. I commend this statement to the House.
Da’esh – Fears are growing British ISIS widow Sally Jones has been training WOMEN jihadis for attacks on the UK and Europe it was reported on the 26 May 16. Jones, originally from Kent - who married a notorious fighter Junaid Hussain killed in a drone strike and was last seen in Syria - today posted final chilling tweets before her feed went offline. And in them she hinted that she might be building an army for 'Holy War'. It's 24 hours since Jones, 45 - one of the UK's most wanted women - re-emerged online and declared that London was a terror target for Islamic State terrorists. She wrote last night: "To be honest I wouldn't go into Central London through June ... or even July well to be honest I wouldn't go there at all especially by Tube." She deliberately singled out London, Glasgow and Wales as targets for jihadists. Continuing her taunts today she warned of 'casting terror into the hearts of disbelievers'. And she posted an ambiguous yet worrying tweet recommending it would be 'better to take the bus'. But among her online rants there was one particular message that will be sending a chill down the spine of MI5 and MI6 - and spooks across Europe. Jones re-tweeted a message from Michael Smith, COO of Kronos Advisory - an expert who sits on the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare in the US. She cryptically then posted: "Do you know that I use you Twitter, & the media that's on it ...& when I am finished and when you have all done what I wanted then I leave." Adding: "You all scare so easily ... it only takes a few tweets, because you are pathetic England but b4 I go I just wanna say ... have a nice summer." Her Twitter feed disappeared at 5.15pm this afternoon - shortly after she re-tweeted a story from Mirror Online about anti-terror helicopters over London and with the phrase 'LOL'. A hateful audio recording released by ISIS this week asked its followers to prepare for terror attacks in Europe and the US over the month of Ramadan - which runs from June to July.
Iraq – Suicide attackers broke into a gas plant north of Baghdad on the 15 May 16 killing at least seven people and setting fire to gas tanks, officials said. The attack on the Taji plant, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the capital, took place at around 0300 hrs GMT on the 16 May16. Eight suicide bombers broke into the gas plant and blew up a car bomb at one of its entrances, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said in a statement. Some of the attackers detonated suicide belts while others were killed by small arms fire according to Maan, who said explosions set fire to three gas tanks. Footage showed huge plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky but the Joint Operations Command said the fire had been brought under control. The attack killed at least seven people and injured at least 22, according to security and medical officials. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of an operation by ISIS. The extremist organization has been steadily losing ground to the Iraqi security forces in recent months. According to the government, ISIS controls only 14 percent of Iraqi territory; down from the 40 percent it held in 2014. But the group has intensified its attacks behind the front lines, detonating car bombs in civilian areas and infiltrating sensitive sites with suicide commandos. “Daesh is turning to targeting civilian facilities in cities after losing the battle on the front,” said Colonel Mohamed al-Bidhani, of the government's “war media cell.” On the 14 May 16 a group of ISIS fighters snuck into Amriyat al-Fallujah, a government-held town west of Baghdad, in a similar suicide raid that killed five people. The group also claimed responsibility for a spate of bombings in Baghdad on the 11 May 16 that killed close to 100 people, the bloodiest day in the Iraqi capital this year.
Iraq – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the 23 May 16 announced the start of a military operation to retake the city of Fallujah from ISIS. "We are beginning the operation to liberate Fallujah," he said in a statement. "The Iraqi flag will be raised high over the land of Fallujah." The Joint Operations Command also issued a statement announcing the beginning of operations to take back Fallujah, an ISIS bastion which lies only 50 kilometres west of Baghdad and has been out of government control since Jan 14. On the 22 May 16 Iraq's military warned civilians still in Fallujah - estimated to number in the tens of thousands - to leave the city.
Iraq/Da’esh – Militants unleashed a wave of attacks targeting commercial areas in and around Baghdad on the 30 May 16 killing at least 17 people, officials said as Iraqi troops poised to recapture the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah, west of Iraq's capital. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which bore the hallmarks of the extremist Islamic State, which has been behind recent deadly attacks in Baghdad and beyond. Such attacks are seen as an attempt by the militants to distract the security forces' attention away from the front lines. The deadliest of the 30 May attacks took place in the northern, Shiite-dominated Shaab neighbourhood of Baghdad where a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint next to a commercial area, killing five civilians and three soldiers. The explosion also injured up to 14 people, a police officer said. A suicide car bomber struck an outdoor market in the town of Tarmiyah, about 50 kilometres north of Baghdad, killing four civilians and two policemen, another police officer said, adding that 19 people were injured in that bombing. And in Baghdad's eastern Shiite Sadr City district, a bomb motorcycle went off at a market, killing three and injuring 10, police said. The attacks came amid a key Iraqi military operation to dislodge IS militants and retake Fallujah. The city is one of the last major IS strongholds in western Iraq. The extremist group still controls territory in the country's north and west, as well as Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. On the 29 May 16 Iraqi Major Dhia Thamir said troops have recaptured 80 percent of the territory around Fallujah since the operation began and are currently battling IS to the northeast as they seek to tighten the siege ahead of a planned final push into the city centre.
Kurds/Syria – Kurdish-led forces have massed thousands of fighters as part of a military offensive to take over Raqqa, the northern Syrian city controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group for more than two and a half years. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition of armed groups led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), said it has mobilised thousands of fighters in the countryside north of Raqqa. Fighting was reportedly ongoing on the 24 May 16 near Ain Issa, situated 55km from the ISIL-controlled city. SDF released a statement declaring its goal of "liberating" Raqqa from ISIL, which has ruled the town with an iron fist, committing atrocities against the civilian population. The US-led coalition against ISIL was supporting the offensive, spokesman Steve Warren said. "We have always been focused on evicting ISIS from Raqqa and we will continue to support the SDF as they conduct ground operations to further isolate the city," the colonel said. "The US-led coalition will continue to provide air support for SDF operations against ISIS." Joshua Walker of the German Marshall Fund said the timing of the Kurdish-led ground offensive was very important. "It seems clear to me that this is a case in which the US is trying to communicate very symbolically and very clearly that ISIS is on its back foot," he said. "Raqqa could be the beginning of the end for the group...From a symbolic point of view I think this is the most important offensive we have seen since Kobane last year." The offensive comes as Iraqi forces are trying to oust ISIL from Fallujah, west of Baghdad. However, the SDF's mission to take Raqqa will be difficult considering ISIL's fighting force. The presence of Arab fighters in the SDF's ranks is crucial to the success of the offensive because the areas they will attempt to take over have large Arab populations. It is crucial to have enough Arab fighters in this force when [they] take these areas where a lot of Arab, non-Kurds live. Because there is a lot of suspicion of the Kurds, it's incredibly difficult; which is why it's taken so long to start this. Writing on Twitter, Syria analyst Charles Lister said ISIL may launch retaliatory attacks in Kurdish-held areas. Russia on the 24 May 16 reiterated that it was ready to coordinate with US and Kurdish forces in the battle for Raqqa. "Raqqa is one of the aims of the anti-terrorist coalition, just like Iraq’s Mosul," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. "We are confident that these cities could have been liberated more effectively and faster if our military officials would have started coordinating their actions much earlier." On the 23 May 16 ISIL suicide bombers struck in several areas of Tartus and Jableh, government-held cities on Syria's coastline, killing at least 150 civilians. 361 COMMENT: The question is what will happen when Da’esh is defeated? The Kurds are gathering up a lot of areas after liberating them from Da’esh. Are they going to hand it back to the Syrians once the conflict has finished? With the autonomous region in Iraq and Syria along with more areas in their possession it will give the Kurds a huge negation platform for the return of Kurdistan after it was dissolved under the Ottoman Empire. Kurdistan was never negotiated under the Sykes-Picot agreement. The Kurds are fighting for their very existence with the hope that the world will recognise them in the future. COMMENT ENDS
Kurds/Syria – The Syrian city of Raqqa will soon become a part of the Federal Democratic System of Rojava and Northern Syria, a representative of the PYD in Iraqi Kurdistan said on the 26 May 16.
SULAYMANIYAH (Iraq) (Sputnik) – The Syrian city of Raqqa will become a part of the Federal Democratic System of Rojava and Northern Syria following its liberation from Da’esh terrorists, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Iraqi Kurdistan, Gharib Hassou, said on the 26 May 16. Last week, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance announced plans to liberate Raqqa from the terrorist group. On the 24 May 16, the SDF, with assistance from a US-led international coalition, launched an offensive to free the northern part of the Syrian province. "Since the assault on Raqqa is carried out by the SDF, it makes sense that after its recapture, the city will become a part of the democratic federal system created by us in northern Syria," Hassou told RIA Novosti. The Syrian government cannot do anything to oppose the city joining the Kurdish federal system, as "the Syrian army failed to do something with the terrorists in Raqqa," Hassou said. He noted that the Syrian army was not taking part in the offensive to retake Raqqa. Syrian Kurds announced the creation of a federal region in the country's north – the Federal Democratic System of Rojava and Northern Syria – at a conference in Hasakah province on the 17 Mar 16. The initiative was criticized by the Syrian government.
Kurds/Iraq – Iraq's Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the 29 May 16 launched an offensive to retake areas east of Mosul, the Da’esh terror group’s main hub in the country, a statement said. The "Peshmerga-led ground offensive, backed by international coalition warplanes" started before dawn, the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) said. It said the operation involved around 5,500 Peshmerga and was aimed at retaking several villages from the Da’esh near Khazir, east of Mosul. "This is one of the many shaping operations expected to increase pressure on ISIL [Da’esh] in and around Mosul in preparation for an eventual assault on the city," the KRSC said. Ten hours into the operation, a KRSC update said three villages had been fully retaken. It also said that five suicide car bombs were destroyed by Peshmerga forces and coalition air strikes. AFP reporters on the frontline saw what appeared to be US-led coalition military advisers working with the Peshmerga. Some of them told reporters in English that taking pictures and footage of their presence was banned and asked that anything already recorded be deleted from cameras. It was not clear what their nationality was, although one was seen with a large US flag. The US-led coalition has thousands of forces deployed across the country on an "advise and assist" mission meant to help Iraqi forces battling Da’esh without directly engaging in combat operations. Many have been deployed on the northern front with the Kurdish forces leading operations around Mosul, but they usually keep a very low profile. The US military reported that coalition aircraft had carried out 12 strikes against Da’esh targets near Mosul on the 28 May 16 alone, an above average number for a single area on a single day. The coalition's definition of a strike allows for a number of separate targets to be hit in one strike, and a statement listed a large number of destroyed targets in Saturday's raids. Besides taking out top Da’esh leaders, degrading the group's infrastructure and preventing attacks, one of the primary roles of coalition air support has been to pave the way for ground operations by Iraqi forces. The fresh push against the extremist organisation comes a week after Iraqi forces launched an operation against Fallujah, Da’esh’s only other major urban hub in Iraq. 361 COMMENT: Mosul was once part of Kurdistan before the Ottoman Empire dissolved the country. The Kurds will be keen to retake Mosul and possible subsume itself into what is clearly becoming clear that the Kurds are attempting to retake what was once there’s. COMMENT ENDS
Syria/Turkey/United States – Turkish and US-led coalition forces have struck Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least 27 fighters, according to state-run Anadolu Agency on the 16 May 16 and other media reports. Turkish artillery and rocket launchers fired into Syria while warplanes from the US-led coalition carried out three separate air campaigns, Anadolu said on the 16 May 16 citing military sources. Five fortified defence posts and two gun posts were also destroyed in the attack less than 10km from Turkey's Syria border. Turkish and coalition forces have carried out a series of such strikes recently to prevent further attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis, which lies just across the frontier from ISIL-controlled territory in Syria, and has been regularly struck by rockets in recent weeks. The US and Turkey have for months been discussing a military plan to drive ISIL from the border. Elsewhere in Aleppo, fighting continued as government-backed armed groups said they took back two villages north of the battered Syrian city from ISIL. Government's deadly airborne raids also destroyed a fifth-century church, the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites in the village of Daret Azza, according to Syrian activists. The fighting was focused around a strategic area that leads in and out of the rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo. On the 14 May 16 ISIL launched offensive in the east of the country in Deir Az Zor, but Syrian government troops fought back, and claimed to have retaken a hospital and a dormitory from the armed group which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group is saying that the 95 percent of the city is under ISIL control which is in an oil-rich area. Meanwhile, John Kerry met King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and its Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign minister, as part of diplomatic push aimed at ending the five-year-old war in Syria. Kerry will head to Vienna to push for more international cooperation on ending the conflict that has left more than 240,000 people. He will also go to Brussels for meetings with NATO leaders. A tenuous ceasefire has been in place since Feb 16 brokered by Russia and the US, but Syria has continued to bomb rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo.
Syria/Russia/United States – Russia’s military strength in Syria has barely changed since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal from the war-torn country in Mar 16, the Pentagon said on the 18 May 16. “Their capabilities are largely the same, or almost identical, frankly,” Baghdad-based military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. “They continue to have air power there, they continue to have ground forces, they continue to have artillery. They still have Spetsnaz (special forces) providing advice and assistance to the Syrian regime.” Putin surprised the West in Mar 16 when he ordered the “main part” of his forces to pull out of Syria, where Moscow has been conducting a bombing campaign to back up ally President Bashar al-Assad. Warren said Russian forces appeared to have established some sort of forward operating base near Palmyra. “Too early to tell whether or not they intend it to be a long term or short term venture,” Warren said. “They’ve established an operating base outside of Palmyra... And they’re still building it up.” Warren said Russian forces had started to target ISIS fighters more actively, whereas their initial focus when they entered the fray last fall was on rebels opposed to Assad.
Syria/Da’esh – More than 100 people have been killed in multiple attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in strongholds of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a monitoring group said on the 23 May 16. Syrian state TV also reported the attacks, putting the death toll at the time at 65. Simultaneous car bombs and suicide bombers in bus stations, hospitals and elsewhere in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh in Latakia province appeared to severely breach government defences, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans. Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground. The Syrian Observatory said that at least 53 people were killed in Jableh, and 48 in Tartus. At least three explosions rocked Tartus, and there were at least four in Jableh, it said. ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack through one of its media arms, Amaq. It is the first time in this war that simultaneous attacks of this scale took place in Latakia. A Russian naval base is located in Latakia and Jableh is extremely close to a Russian airbase.
Syria – The Assad regime has used sarin gas for the first time since 2013, dropping a sarin-filled bombs on ISIS fighters outside Damascus, a senior Israeli official has said and was reported on the 18 May 16. On 21 August 2013 the Syrian military used sarin and VX to kill 1,400 Sunni civilians in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. In the wake of the attack — the last of numerous, smaller sarin attacks by the Syrian military against Sunni civilians — Russia and the United States pressured Assad to give up his chemical weapons arsenal and dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons manufacturing capabilities. Western intelligence services have maintained all along that despite Assad’s disarmament pledge, the Syrian regime has stashed away large quantities of sarin, and that the latest attack showed that the Assad regime has retained the ability to use the agent. The Telegraph reports that since June 2014, when Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and manufacturing capability were supposed to have been completely dismantled, Assad’s forces have used relatively unsophisticated chlorine gas on several dozen occasions. The regime refrained, however, from employing sarin until the latest incident. Israeli officials said that the Syrian air force dropped the bombs filled with sarin just over three weeks ago, aiming to prevent ISIS from seizing two airbases located north-east of Damascus. Scores of ISIS fighters were killed, but the exact number is uncertain. An Israeli official told the Telegraph that Assad had concealed a significant proportion of his chemical arsenal. In particular, he kept some of his sarin gas. “They deceived and they still have it [sarin],” said the official. “Recently, they have decided to use it again. Once a taboo is broken, it becomes a standard weapon that you use. There are no red lines and it [sarin] becomes a standard kind of weapon.” Syria’s chemical arsenal, the world’s largest, included 1,300 tons of mustard, VX, and sarin gas. Israel believes that Assad likely disposed of his mustard and VX, in accordance with the deal, but that he chose to keep the sarin, the most lethal agent at his disposal. Syria’s chemical disarmament was supervised by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Even before the latest report of Assad’s use of sarin, Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW’s director general, had questioned whether Syria was genuinely disarmed in full. “We are not yet there,” he said on at the beginning of the month. “There are still questions. I am not able to say whether Syria has declared everything or whether Syria continues to possess some chemical weapons or some munitions. I hope that we will be able to clarify the remaining questions.”
Syria/Da’esh/Russia – Dozens of Russian military vehicles and attack helicopters deployed to Syria may have been destroyed in an apparent attack by Da’esh. Images released on the 24 May 16 by Stratfor, the American intelligence think tank, show what appear to be the blackened remains of four attack helicopters and dozens of lorries at an airbase used by Russia near the town of Tiyas. The images appear to confirm an earlier claim by so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that four helicopters and 20 lorries had been destroyed in a fire at the base. That would represent Russia's worst losses in terms of materiel since Vladimir Putin ordered intervention in Syria in Sep 15. Russia dismissed the ISIL claim as “propaganda”, said the images showed damaged inflicted during months of heavy fighting for the base before Russian forces occupied it earlier this year. All Russia helicopters deployed to Syria "are performing their planned missions to destroy terrorists", said Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman in Moscow. “The rumours about the destruction of Russian military helicopters and two dozen lorries were authored by ISIL propagandists, who unsuccessfully tried to ‘sell’ this alleged ‘news’ 10 days ago,” he said. However, analysts at Stratfor said the new images show the ISIL claims were actually “very accurate” and suggest the fire was caused by a terror attack rather than an accident. “The imagery tells us this was not an accidental explosion. It shows that the Russians took quite a bad hit. An entire helicopter unit was wiped out,” Sim Tack, an analyst at Stratfor said. “That first statement shows that Islamic State had the knowledge about what exactly was destroyed in the attack,” he added. Syrian sources told Russian media that there had indeed been a fire at the base, but it was unknown what caused it. The sources said no one was hurt in the blaze. ISIL put out a statement though its affiliated al-Amaq news channel on the day of the attack on the 14 May 16 claiming a fire at the base destroyed four Russian helicopters and 20 trucks carrying rockets. The Russians built up their presence at Tiyas, a former Syrian military air base, after the liberation of Palmyra in Mar 16. Just weeks earlier, Mr Putin had announced Moscow was winding down operations in Syria and recalled many of its aircraft. Last week the group blew up a major gas field less than 15 miles from the base, causing an explosion so fierce it triggered a 4.4 magnitude earthquake. The terror group has mounted a series of high profile attacks in recent weeks in an apparent bid to demonstrate it can still take the offensive despite the loss of Palmyra. At least 148 people were killed in coordinated suicide bombings claimed by the group in government-held territory on the 23 May 16. The attacks included blasts in the towns of Tartous, home to a Russian naval facility, and Jableh, near a Russian-operated air base.
Yemen/Da’esh – Double bomb attacks on would-be army recruits in Yemen have killed at least 45 people, officials said on the 23 May 16. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the two attacks, which were carried out on the 23 May. A car bomb hit a crowd of young men queuing to join the Yemeni army in the city of Aden, causing at least 20 casualties, a security official has said. The explosion hit near the Badr base in the Khormaksar district of the city, where the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is based. The bomber detonated an explosives belt after joining the queue at the recruitment centre. A second explosion went off inside the base afterwards, killing at least 25. In its statement following the attacks, ISIL called the men killed "apostate soldiers". Local news website Aden al-Ghad showed pictures of soldiers picking up bloodied comrades in uniform from the ground and witnesses reported seeing ambulances with blaring sirens collecting the wounded from the scene. Armed groups have gained ground in Aden since forces loyal to Hadi, and backed by the Saudi-led coalition, drove Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, out of the city in July last year. The conflict between those two sides created a power vacuum that was exploited by al-Qaeda and allied groups. The rebel-controlled Saba news agency said on Monday that dozens of others were wounded and the death toll was likely to rise as rescue teams struggled to reach the village of Al-Lassbah in a mountainous district of Taez province. Taez province is largely under the control of Houthi rebels.
Yemen/Saudi Arabia – Yemen's Houthi rebels have launched a missile over the border into Saudi Arabia in the latest violation of a shaky truce between the insurgents and the Yemeni government. Pro-Houthi television channel al-Masirah said on the 30 May 16 that the rebels had launched a long-range missile into Saudi territory. Saudi Arabia's military said in a statement that several missiles had hit the Jizan border region, the first such strike in over a month, without injuring anyone. A truce between the warring parties that began on the 10 Apr 16 has been deteriorating in recent days, with violations. The conflict in Yemen pits Shiite Houthi rebels and supporters of a former president against Yemen's internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition. On the 27 May 16 Al Arabiya news channel’s correspondent said Saudi Arabia's army thwarted an attack on positions in Jazan. He added that skirmishes has erupted, and that Saudi forces repelled the attack by Houthi militias on Al Khubah and Tawal in Jazan. Days ago, the Saudi Interior Ministry said that one Saudi soldier was killed and three others were injured when a landmine exploded on the border with Yemen. The blast hit a border patrol in the south-western province of Jazan, the ministry said in a statement.