Activists say at least 40 people were killed by a regime airstrike on Manbij in Aleppo Province in northern Syria on Friday.

Local sources said a barrel bomb struck a bakery, with some asserting that the death toll was up to 100. The Local Coordination Committees said they had verified 55 victims throughout Aleppo Province yesterday.

Located 30 km (19 miles) west of the Euphrates River, Manbij has been near the frontline of fighting between rebels and the Islamic State since early 2014, with the latter holding the town. However, with the recent erosion of the Islamic State’s position in Aleppo Province, the prospect is of Syrian forces trying to check a rebel expansion in the area.

Video and images of the aftermath of the airstrike:




Claims: Islamic State Has Taken Buildings in Northern and Eastern Palmyra

Claims are circulating on social media that the Islamic State has taken buildings in the north and east of the ancient of Palmyra in northern Syria.

The militants have been attacking the city since Wednesday. They have made incursions into the northern and eastern sections, but these are the first claims that they have taken control of buildings, including the Cultural Center.

Video of the Islamic State flag being flown out the window of a building with the Syrian regime flag above it:

See earlier entry on Islamic State attacks on Palmyra

Video: Regime Airstrike Reportedly Kills 18 in Saraqeb in Idlib Province

Activists say a regime airstrike on Saraqeb, near Idlib city in northwest Syria, has killed at least 18 people and wounded scores:

The Local Coordination Committees is also reporting a deadly strike on Kafar Obeid in Idlib Province. Graphic video has been posted.

Turkey Shoots Down Syrian Warplane

The Turkish military says one of its F-16 jets has downed a Syrian regime warplane that violated Turkey’s airspace.

The Turkish F-16, taking off from the Incirlik airbase in Adana Province in southern Turkey, downed the Syrian aircraft with two missiles.

“The area is being searched for the crashed aircraft. It would soon be seen if it was a plane or a helicopter,” a Turkish military source said.

Locals said the Syrian warplane twice crossed the border in the Dursunlu-Emek area of Hatay Province. They reported that the aircraft fell into the Syrian side of the border in three pieces.

Other reports on social media say the warplane was a small surveillance aircraft, possibly a drone.

The Turkish Air Force shot down a Syrian helicopter in September 2013 at the border after it violated Turkey’s airspace, and Turkish fighter jets down a Syrian jet on March 23, 2014, again claiming violation of airspace.

US Military Claims Killing of Islamic State Commander in Special Forces Raid

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has claimed the killing of an Islamic State commander by American special forces on a raid from Iraq into eastern Syria.

Carter said Abu Sayyaf resisted capture and was killed in the overnight raid in Deir ez-Zor Province. About a dozen Islamic State fighters were killed in the firefight at a residential building, other sources said..

Carter said all US troops returned safely from the raid, ordered at the direction of President Barack Obama.

“Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL’s military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil, gas, and financial operations as well,” Carter said.

The commander’s wife, an Iraqi named Umm Sayyaf, was captured and is currently in military detention in Iraq, according to National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan</strong>. She said, “[Umm Sayyaf] played an important role in the Islamic State’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night.”

Meehan said the US did not inform the Assad regime in advance about the raid.

Before the US announcement, Syrian State TV had claimed that the Syrian army had killed the Islamic State’s “oil minister”, naming him as Abu al-Taym al-Saudi, in a special operation. It said he had been slain in Omar oil field, Syria’s largest, which Islamic State captured last July.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that tracks the war, said around 19 Islamic State members had been killed in an air strike on the oil field. Twelve of the dead were foreign fighters, it said.

Obama: “Probably” No Resolution of Syrian Crisis by 2017

Asked in an interview if the Syrian conflict is likely to be resolved before he leaves office in 2017, President Obama has replied, “Probably not.”

Obama distanced the US from the crisis, telling Al-Arabiya that a lasting solution must come from the Middle East itself.

Pressed that Syrians and people across the Middle East “look to the US for leadership”, Obama talked around the challenge and then finally said:

If you look at the history of the process, essentially what they’re arguing is that we should have invaded Syria and overthrown the Syrian regime — which, by the way, would be a violation of international law, and undoubtedly we would then be criticized for that, as well.

The President also repeated his statement from a Thursday press conference, after his meeting in Maryland with Gulf leaders, that he had been justified in refraining from military intervention after the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attacks near Damascus in August 2013: “We didn’t because they got rid of the chemical weapons, and that in fact was very important.”

See Syria Video Feature: Obama — “Assad Gave Up His Chemical Weapons”

Protesters in Kafranbel in northwest Syria express their dissatisfaction:

Opposition Military Leader: “We Have Overthrown UN Envoy De Mistura”

The head of the Revolutionary Command Council, Subhi al-Refai, has spoken about this week’s letter by 37 opposition factions rejecting the invitation of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura for consultations in Geneva: “The Syrians have overthrown [him] through this statement. We have made him a failure.”

De Mistura’s latest initiative, a proposal for “Geneva III” political talks, immediately stalled as opposition groups refused to participate. The groups say that De Mistura proved he is not neutral when he declared that President Assad, whose departure from power was envisaged in the Geneva Communique of June 2012, is “part of the political solution”.

Al-Refai told Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

The factions have now realized that de Mistura is not good for the Syrian revolution. He is not neutral. He is close to the regime and Iran.

Of course, this is because of the instructions he is getting. We know that there are common interests among some European states, the United States, and Iran regarding the nuclear issue and other things. They will tell Iran: if you give us something in the nuclear talks, we will help you with Syria. So they have given Staffan de Mistura directives to go easy on Iran and the regime. This has made the Syrian factions and the Syrian people as a whole take a negative view of Staffan de Mistura personally and of the United Nations generally.

Al-Refai said that the RCC and opposition had spoken with De Mistura and made their position clear that the factions would only speak as a single group, but the envoy continued to invite them one by one “while he invited the regime as one single delegation”.

The RCC head said De Mistura was told, “When you’ve got a written plan with international guarantees, signed by the UN secretary-general, then we can talk.”

He continued, “What is the basis and what are the limits of these negotiations — should the regime stay, should Assad stay?”

Islamic State Attacks Ancient City of Palmyra for 3rd Day

The Islamic State continued its assault on the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria on Friday, moving into the northern Al-‘Amuriyah section and occupying a barracks for military officers. The militants also attacked the Palmyra Airbase.

The Syrian air force carried out strikes to push back the militants, who rapidly advanced on Palmyra from the east on Wednesday after taking the desert town of Sukhna and cutting the highway to Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria. The Islamic State also holds positions to the north and west of the city.

See Syria Daily, May 15: Islamic State Threatens Capture of Ancient City of Palmyra

Reinforcements from a special forces unit of the Syrian Army have reported arrived to repel the offensive.

Claimed footage of regime airstrike near the radio and signals tower: