This Week In The Middle East: FSA Merges into "Salvation Army"; Fighting in Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zor; Israel Attacked from Gaza; Turkey Prepares For Elections
29 May 2018 - 15 Sivan 5778 - 14 Ramadan 1439
Tuesday Edition - Ramadan Mubarak
This Week in the Middle East is a bi-weekly column edited by Revan Filiaexdeus regularly published on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We draw our information from a wide network of citizen reporters who are often the very ones fighting these conflicts. Our reporting aims to be as objective and fact-based as possible. The opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author.
A note on terminology: We refuse to use any such terms as "Islamic State", "the Caliphate", "ISIS", or "ISIL" when referring to the terror group. Instead, we use the derogatory term Daesh, an abbreviation from the transliterated Arabic. Additionally, we recognize all UN-recognized nationstates, a few micronations, and definitely Kurdistan.
A new unity group calling itself the "Salvation Army" has been formed through a merger between the Southern Front, Ahrar Nawa, Al-Maghawir and Ahrar al-Golan. Various other disaparate elements from the Free Syrian Army have reportedly also joined the new faction.
Headquartered in Al-Quenitra and Dara'a Governorates, the merger came in response to a renewed offensive by Bashar al-Assad's regime forces. Regime planes have been dropping leaflets over Damascus urging all rebel elements to lay down their arms or face military retaliation. Assad has vowed to bring all of Syria back under his control. Rebel forces this week have targeted Sheikh Maqsoud district in Aleppo with mortars strikes.
Four members of the White Helmets were killed by a unknown gunmen in Tall Hadiyah. The White Helmets have been active since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War as an unarmed civilian relief force.
In Idlib, Syria, a car bomb exploded outside an International Rescue Committee center in northern Syria designed to offer relief to Syrians displaced by the war. At least one person was killed and six injured. The attack has not been officially claimed by any group.
In Deir ez-Zor Governorate, four Russian soldiers were killed by the Daesh forces while the Russian Ministry of Defense says claims forty of the jihadists. Daesh also claimed an ambush against Assad forces in the region earlier in the week in which twenty three regime soldiers were killed.
At 12 pro-Assad militia fighters were killed by an airstrike in the region as well. However, both US and Russia denied any airstrikes by the US-led Coalition on Assad government targets.
The European Union voted this week to extend sanctions against the Assad government by one year. This follows the Assad regime's official announcement accusing the United States and Israel of staging chemical attacks in order to undermine his regime.
Twenty three shells came from the Gaza Strip into Israel aimed indiscriminately at both military and civilian targets. The Israeli Defense Forces responded by striking at least thirty six targets inside Gaza reported to be strongholds of Palestinian weaponry.
Israel has been talking to Iran following the tense weeks of conflict escalation. Iran has assured Israel that they will not intervene in any of the fighting in Southern Syria, where Israel has taken up positions against both Daesh and the Assad regime in the Golan Heights. Rebel forces fighting both Assad and Daesh are also present in the area. The talks have been mediated by neutral Jordanian officials.
Jordan experienced a largely nonviolent conflict of it's own during the 2011 Arab Spring. King Abdullah largely acceded to popular demands.
In Turkish occupied Kurdistan motorcycle IEDs exploded near a gathering of Turkish-backed jihadists in Jarabulus and Qabasin, continuing the Kurdish program of guerilla war against Turkish military forces to liberate occupied Afrin.
Turkey prepares for elections in June. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the incumbent, faces opposition from both within and without his party. 24 June will be the first time in Turkish history that the nation holds Presidential and Parliamentary elections on the same day. The ten main political parties in Turkey have formed two major coalitions. The People's Alliance, led by Erdogan and Devlet Bahçeli, faces the largely liberal and social-democracy oriented Nation Alliance.
Neither coalition has addressed the ongoing problem of relations with Kurdistan.
In other news, the Yemeni Civil War continues to rage. Over a thousand Saudi soldiers have been logged as casualties as the Saudi government attempts to set up a puppet regime in the war torn Arab republic.
Revan Filiaexdeus is a freelance journalist and social activist who has been following the Syrian Civil War since it's origins in the Arab Spring of 2010. He is passionately dedicated to an objective covering of these events and works with organizations such as syriancivilwarmap.com and southfront.org