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MENA Daily Brief – 17 March 15

Syria: Syrian military reportedly carries out deadly chlorine attack in Idlib

Sources indicated that that the Syrian airforce carried out at least two barrel bombing attacks, targeting the Sarmin neighbourhood, located in the southeastern area of Idlib, during evening hours local time on 16 March. At least six people were killed in the latest chlorine attack, including at least three young children. At least one photo collected from local sources showed a small, lifeless girl with white foam coming out of her nose and mouth. Opposition forces indicated the regime carried out the attack amid unconfirmed reports that rebels were preparing to carry out an offensive in the same area that was attacked. Meanwhile, activists released a new round of photographs, reportedly showing torture-marked dead bodies who were former prisoners of the Assad regime. At least several children and women were included in the photos, for the first time since photos started being released.

Iraq: Military, allied militas suffer heavy casualties as Tikrit offensive is halted

The Iraqi military and allied militias announced that they had halted their offensive to retake Tikrit from Islamic State-control after suffering heavy fatalaties. Reports indicated Iraqi commanders have begun to request aerial support from the US but it remains unclear whether or not that request will be fufilled. While the offensive is likely to be relaunched again, the major setbacks underscore the reality that it will be extremely challenging for the Iraqi military to make sustainable gains – particularly in Mosul and IS-controlled areas of Anbar province – if the US continues failing to provide air support .

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