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Syria

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged Risk Alert

Month saw northern armed opposition facing most dangerous situation since start of uprising: rival rebel group Islamic State (IS) (formerly ISIL, see Iraq) defeated other rebels and gained territory, oil and manpower in eastern province Deir al-Zour. Regime forces made progress encircling rebels in Aleppo: rebels increasingly disorganised and poorly armed, state backers’ modest increase of support for moderate factions failed to compensate for cuts in funding to allied group Islamic Front. Observers expressed fears moderate opposition setbacks in Aleppo could provide opportunity for IS to recapture ground in city’s northern countryside and push further west. IS and regime forces increasingly drawn into direct confrontation as consequence of respective gains including: IS mid-month reportedly killed hundreds seizing control of gas field east of Homs, seized regime bases in Raqqa and Hassakeh provinces late month. Al-Qaeda linked rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra mid-month indicated intention to establish Islamic emirate of their own: sought to gain ground in Idlib province at expense of other rebels. Exile opposition group Syrian National Coalition (SNC) 9 July elected Hadi al-Bahra President; 22 July voted to dissolve “interim” govt, form new one within 1 month. Staffan de Mistura 10 July appointed UN special envoy to Syria, replacing Lakhdar Brahimi.

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

Regime orchestration of President Assad’s 3 June re-election illustrated steady progress in consolidating control of Damascus, Homs and areas in between; Assad reportedly won 88.7% of vote; constitutional court claimed 73% turnout. Regime forces 15 June retook Kasab border town near Turkey, limitations nevertheless visible; fears that return of pro-regime Shia foreign fighters to face Sunni jihadis in Iraq (see Iraq) could deplete pro-regime forces. Northern rebels reported changes in nature of military support, increasing coordination between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey: Turkey’s border controls tightened, Qatar cut backing for Salafi-led Islamic Front; U.S. reportedly modestly increased aid. Observers raised concerns about durability of inter-state cooperation, effect on military balance; 9 senior officers 14 June quit opposition Syrian Military Council over mismanagement, shortage of aid. Scores killed in continued battles between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other rebels in Deir al-Zour: ISIL established control over most of city’s western countryside and key entrance to city; regime control over other entrances left ISIL’s opponents and remaining civilian population effectively encircled. Anti-ISIL militants, including al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, formed new local alliance, Majlas Shura al-Mujahidin, setting aside ideological differences for sake of cooperation. Several regime air strikes hit ISIL targets, including group’s Raqqah HQ 15 June; at least 50 reported killed in regime strikes inside Iraq 24 June. Deadly regime barrel bombings continued, including at least 60 reported killed in Aleppo 16 June. At least 4 killed in Israeli airstrikes 23 June (see Israel-Palestine). Govt handed over remaining declared chemical weapons 23 June; OPCW mid-month reported chlorine gas possibly used in attacks, kept investigation open.

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

Regime and rebel fighters early May struck deal for rebel evacuation from Homs old quarter: hundreds of fighters withdrew to rebel-held areas north of city; army entered central Homs 9 May. Regime accepted agreement on terms it previously rejected; rebels secured withdrawal not achievable by military means. Regime compromise reportedly due to Iranian pressure; at least 1 Iranian citizen among roughly 40 detainees released by Islamic Front rebel alliance as part of deal. At least 39 killed by mortar fire 22 May during rally in support of President Assad’s candidacy in June’s presidential election. Rebel infighting intensified: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) gained ground in east; over 200 rebels reported killed in clashes early month in Deir al-Zour, over 100,000 residents fled. Tensions also rose between al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and allied rebel groups: JN early month captured local rebel commander in southern province Daara, sparking clashes; leading groups cooperating with JN, including Islamic Front, 17 May released joint “Honour Covenant” conflicting with several of JN’s positions: rejected affiliation with ‘foreign entities’, welcomed cooperation with external states, avoided overt Islamist language. Several observers including Human Rights Watch, French FM Fabius accused regime of employing chlorine gas in multiple attacks over past months. UN Syria envoy Brahimi resigned 13 May. Russia, China 22 May vetoed UNSC resolution referring Syrian conflict to ICC.

Syria

  |  1 May 2014

Unchanged

Projecting increasing political and military confidence, regime announced presidential election for 3 June, paving way for re-election of President Assad and suggesting diminishing opportunities for compromise to end conflict following failure of Geneva II talks. Assad announced his candidacy 28 April. Regime renewed campaign to seize rebel-held areas of Homs amid steady trickle of rebel surrenders from city’s old quarter; other rebels fought back with numerous deadly car bombings, including at least 100 killed 29 April in twin suicide attack claimed by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Regime continued Qalamoun offensive near Lebanese border seizing several towns, including Rankus and Maalula. Despite regime success in some areas, rebels held recently-captured ground in Latakia province; fought to stalemate in Aleppo; late-month advanced in Daraa province in south. Regime airstrikes and barrel bombings of Aleppo continued with scores of casualties, including at least 29 killed in single neighbourhood 20 April according to SOHR. Rebel infighting continued in east: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 10 April launched attack on Albu Kamal town on Iraqi border; SOHR reported 86 killed in fighting, ISIL’s assault rebuffed by rival rebels. UN mission 24 April said 92.5% of all declared chemical weapons (CW) removed from or destroyed in country; will investigate allegations of renewed CW use involving chlorine gas. Humanitarian situation continued to deteriorate: World Food Programme announced food deliveries reduced due to shortage of funds, less than half of $2.3bn pledged at Jan donor conference delivered; UNSG Ban accused all parties to civil war of blocking aid deliveries, violating international law.

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Following Feb breakdown of Geneva II negotiations seeking political resolution to conflict, regime intensified push to secure control over areas bordering Lebanon, part of long-running Qalamoun offensive: with backing of Lebanese Hizbollah seized city of Yabroud 16 March, largest remaining rebel bastion in area; 19 March took village SW of Yabroud, 29 March seized another 2 villages near border. Many rebels fled across border to Lebanon; regime forces 21 March claimed to have killed at least 93 fleeing takeover of Crac des Chevaliers. Rebels meanwhile announced offensive in Latakia province in NW: dozens killed in fighting as rebels captured Kaseb town and border crossing with Turkey; Hial al-Assad, cousin of President Assad and pro-regime militia leader, killed 23 March. Rebels 19 March took prison outside southern city Daraa. Fighting between rebel groups continued: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rejected demands for mediation by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra; mid-month withdrew eastwards, pulling out of Idlib and Latakia provinces, concentrating fighters in eastern Aleppo, Raqqa. More than 50 rebels reported killed after ISIL seized town in Hasakah province in NE 30 March. Govt 15 March missed UN-imposed deadline for destroying chemical weapons (CW) production facilities; UN mission overseeing CW removal 20 March said 53.6% of CW removed from or destroyed in Syria. Turkish air force 23 March shot down Syrian plane, saying it crossed into Turkish territory; regime denied crossing border, said Turkey complacent in “terrorism”. Following Feb UNSC resolution to increase aid access, UN aid trucks 20 March entered Syria from Turkey for first time in 3 years; aid entered through regime-held crossing near Qamishli, will be distributed through partners approved by Damascus. Regime continued siege and starvation tactics around Damascus, temporarily resuming siege of Palestinian neighbourhood Yarmouk early March.

Syria

  |  1 Mar 2014

Deteriorated

Second round of Geneva II talks 10-15 Feb failed to generate meaningful discussion on political resolution to conflict or improve humanitarian conditions; govt delegation refused to discuss opposition’s transition plan, emphasising instead need to fight “terrorism”. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) NGO said more killed every day since beginning of talks than any other time during civil war. U.S., Saudi Arabia reportedly reacted to diplomatic breakdown by planning increase of weapons supplies to rebels in south who reorganised into Southern Front, 18 Feb announced spring offensive. Exiled opposition group Syrian National Coalition’s 16 Feb attempt to replace General Selim Idriss as leader of organisation’s military arm rebuffed by regional commanders inside Syria. UNSC 22 Feb adopted resolution to increase aid access to and within Syria, threatening to consider “further steps” in case of non-compliance. Around 1,400 evacuated from besieged old city of Homs beginning 7 Feb following UN-mediated agreement; several hundred males detained and interrogated by govt forces, 91 still held 27 Feb according to governor, at least 11 killed during evacuation by mortar, sniper fire. Rebel infighting continued with jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) conducting assassination campaign against senior leaders of Islamic Front-affiliated groups: 1 Feb killed leaders of Liwa al-Tawhid, Suqour as-Sham in separate suicide bombings; 23 Feb killed senior Ahrar as-Sham commander appointed by al-Qaeda to mediate inter-jihadi conflict. 3 Feb statement by al-Qaeda general command said no organisational links to ISIL, no responsibility for group’s actions. Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra gave ISIL 1 March deadline for accepting mediation or face expulsion from Syria, Iraq. SOHR 27 Feb estimated 3,300 killed in rebel infighting since early Jan. Govt forces gained ground on Aleppo’s NE outskirts taking advantage of rebel infighting; indiscriminate “barrel” bombing campaign continued with hundreds killed. Govt 5 Feb missed UN-endorsed deadline for handing over all chemical weapons stockpiles, accepted new 27 April deadline.

Syria

  |  1 Feb 2014

Unchanged

First round of long-awaited Geneva II talks produced no agreement on confidence-building measures or allowing aid to besieged areas in Homs, no progress in discussing solution to conflict; next round scheduled for 10 Feb. Opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) agreed to participate, though increasingly in disarray ahead of talks; less than half members 18 Jan voted to attend, over third withdrew from session. Talks began 22 Jan with Syrian govt delegation rejecting SNC demands for President Assad’s removal from power and creation of transitional govt; Assad 19 Jan said “significant” chance he will seek new term in summer 2014 election. In lead-up to talks govt escalated systematic starvation and barrel bombings of rebel-held areas, killing scores. On rebel side clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups intensified after Islamic Front (IF) 1 Jan accused ISIL of killing popular rebel commander and being worse than Assad regime. Opponents of ISIL gained control of most of Idlib province and towns west of Aleppo city; ISIL consolidated presence east of Aleppo and in Raqqa province; fierce fighting continues for control of towns between Aleppo and Turkish border. ISIL 27 Jan rejected reconciliation initiative endorsed by other rebel groups. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 23 Jan estimated nearly 1,400 killed in rebel infighting since beginning of month; UN received reports of “mass executions”. Syria 1 Jan missed UN-endorsed deadline for transfer of “priority chemicals” under Sept resolution, first batch shipped out 7 Jan; only 4.1% reportedly shipped out by end Jan, UNSG Ban 28 Jan called delays unnecessary, U.S. 30 Jan warned Syrian efforts had “seriously languished”. Govt 8 Jan reported 2 rebel attacks on chemical sites, first such report. Unconfirmed reports Israeli air force 26 Jan bombed base in Latakia. U.S. 27 Jan announced resuming deliveries of non-lethal aid to non-armed opposition groups, suspended Dec; Reuters reported U.S. had already resumed delivery via Jordan of light and anti-tank weapons to “moderate” rebel groups in S Syria.

Syria

  |  2 Jan 2014

Unchanged

Rebel forces in disarray as increasingly powerful Islamist groups moved to marginalise Western-backed militias: largest rebel alliance Islamic Front (IF), created late Nov, 3 Dec rejected authority of Supreme Military Council (SMC), 7 Dec seized SMC arms depots and HQ in Babisqa, 11 Dec captured SMC-controlled Turkey border crossing near Bab el-Hawa; U.S. and UK 11 Dec suspended non-lethal aid to SMC out of fear it could no longer protect equipment provided to it. U.S. Sec State Kerry 17 Dec said U.S. negotiations with IF “possible” to convince its militias to join 22 Jan Geneva II peace talks, IF rejected offer. Following recent losses against Kurdish militias, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) 5 Dec kidnapped over 50 Kurdish civilians from Minbej and Jarablus towns near Aleppo. Month saw most significant clashes yet between ISIS and Ahrar al-Sham Islamist group. Syrian army and allied militias continued advances in Qalamoun mountains amid rebel disorder: 9 Dec regained control of key Damascus-Homs highway after capture of Nabak, 10 Dec started offensive towards Yabrud, last rebel stronghold in Qalamoun region. IF, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra 11 Dec attacked town of Adra, near Damascus; ISIS beheaded at least 3 Alawites there, pro-regime media accused rebels of killing dozens of Alawite and Druze civilians. Syrian army and allied militias recaptured parts of town 13-16 Dec. Regime’s recent momentum on Aleppo front appearing to lag; army 15 Dec dropped “barrel bombs” on Aleppo, hundreds reported killed; Aleppo activists called scale of raids “unprecedented”. Syrian govt 4 Dec said Assad will lead any transition agreed at Jan Geneva peace talks; opposition National Coalition remains divided on whether to attend talks, to meet early Jan to make final decision. UN rights chief Pillay 2 Dec said “massive evidence” implicates regime in war crimes and crimes against humanity, UN humanitarian chief Amos 3 Dec said govt should allow greater access to trapped civilians.

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2013

Unchanged

Major military offensives outside Aleppo and Damascus saw govt forces secure supply lines and push back rebels. Govt 1-15 Nov seized Safira, Tel Arn and Tel Hasel towns along Aleppo-Homs supply road and military base near Aleppo airport. Pro-govt forces 7 Nov captured Sbeineh, large rebel enclave S of Damascus; 15 Nov started offensive along Lebanese border in Qalamoun mountains to disrupt rebel supply routes, capturing Qara village 19 Nov, Deir Attiya village 29 Nov. Amid increased disarray among rebel forces divided over brutality and growing influence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in north, 7 mainstream Islamist rebel groups seeking to counter ISIS 22 Nov agreed to merge into “Islamic Front”. Commander of powerful Liwa al-Tawhid brigade killed in airstrike 18 Nov. Syrian Kurdish militias continued campaign against ISIS and al-Nusra rebels: Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) and militia of Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) 4 Nov gained control from rebels over 19 towns and villages in NE. PYD 14 Nov unilaterally declared Syrian Kurdish self-rule over conquered territory, sparking widespread criticism: opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) 14 Nov said PYD “hostile” to Syrian revolution, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Govt President Masoud Barzani accused PYD of “autocracy”. UNSG Ban 25 Nov said Geneva II peace talks to be held 22 Jan. SNC 11 Nov agreed to attend talks with preconditions: govt must create humanitarian corridors and release detainees, Assad to play “no role” in transitional period. Govt 27 Nov said it will attend Geneva talks, but not negotiate handover of power.

Syria

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) 6 Oct began destruction of Syria's chemical weapons (CW) arsenal, 31 Oct stated Syria had destroyed all of its declared CW production/mixing facilities, meeting 1 Nov deadline. U.S. Sec State Kerry and Russian FM Lavrov 7 Oct agreed to press UN to set date for Geneva II peace conference in Nov; Arab League (AL) chief Nabil el-Araby 20 Oct said talks will begin 23 Nov, but UN/AL Special Envoy Brahimi 20 Oct said talks unlikely in absence of “credible” opposition. “Friends of Syria” grouping 22 Oct urged opposition Syrian National Coalition (NC) to participate in Geneva II, called for transitional govt; NC to vote 1 Nov on participation, but largest member Syrian National Council 13 Oct said it will not negotiate before fall of Assad regime, will not attend Geneva II, will quit NC if it participates. Militant groups rejecting Geneva talks, highly critical of prospect of political opposition’s participation. Islamist opposition militia Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continued expansion in N and E Syria: ISIL fighters 2 Oct fought rebel militia Northern Storm in Azaz; coalition of militant rebel groups 3 Oct called for immediate ceasefire. ISIL 27 Oct lost Yaaroubiyeh border crossing to Syrian Kurdish militiamen linked to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) 27 Oct. Syrian army, Hizbollah, and Iraqi Shiite militia forces reclaimed key strategic areas and corridors: 3 Oct retook northern town Khanasser from rebels, 7 Oct reopened crucial supply road linking govt-held central area with Aleppo, 9 Oct retook Sheikh Omar suburb of Damascus. 6 ICRC workers and 1 Syrian Red Crescent employee kidnapped 13 Oct by unidentified gunmen in Idlib, 4 released 14 Oct. WHO 29 Oct reported outbreak of polio in Deir al-Zour province.

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

UN Security Council 27 Sept unanimously passed resolution calling for Syria to destroy chemical weapons (CW) production facilities by Nov and dismantle CW stockpile by mid-2014, and allow full access to inspectors. In case of non-compliance another resolution needed to authorise punitive measures including military force. UNSG Ban called v ote “historic”, announced tentative date for new peace conference in Geneva mid-Nov. President Assad 29 Sept said Syria would abide by resolution. Resolution followed extensive diplomacy between U.S and Russia in wake of 21 Aug CW attack near Damascus. U.S. President Obama 9 Sept delayed U.S. Congress vote authorising military action after Russia proposed placing Syria CW under international control, leading to 14 Sept U.S.-Russia agreement serving as basis for UNSC resolution. UN investigation team 16 Sept released report on Aug Ghouta chemical attack confirming sarin gas was used, conclusions suggest attack launched from regime stronghold. Moscow said investigation biased, received new evidence from Damascus of rebel culpability for attack. UN team inspecting further CW attacks, 3 of which allegedly took place after 21 Aug attack. Regime re-escalated campaign to drive rebels from remaining strongholds in Damascus outskirts. Infighting between rebel factions continued, including clashes in north between al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel groups and Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups; fragile truce between FSA and al-Qaeda branch Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) 20 Sept after ISIL captured Azaz town. ISIL mid-Sept killed aid worker affiliated with Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham, prompting criticism from prominent Salafi militants. Syrian National Coalition (NC) pushing to establish provisional govt, 14 Sept elected new interim PM to form 13-minister interim cabinet; 19 Sept reaffirmed willingness to attend Geneva peace talks if goal is establishing transitional govt. Turkish army 16 Sept shot Syrian helicopter violating its airspace.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2013

Deteriorated

Over 1,300 killed and many injured in reported chemical attack 21 Aug near Damascus, prompting urgent UNSC meeting and calls for investigation. Amid accusations it was behind attack, Assad regime denied responsibility. Attack condemned internationally; Western states discussed possibility of armed intervention: U.S. Sec State Kerry 26 Aug accused regime of “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians”, said evidence of chemical weapons use “undeniable” and warned U.S. would hold regime accountable for “moral obscenity”; President Obama 31 Aug said would seek Congressional approval 9 Sept for military action against select targets. French FM said inaction “unacceptable”. UN investigation team, already stationed in Damascus, investigated attack site 23-28 Aug. 10 children killed, many wounded 29 Aug after incendiary bomb reportedly dropped on school in Aleppo. Al-Qaeda branch Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) continued to strengthen position along northern and eastern fronts, generating increasing alarm in opposition political and activist circles amid continued reports of repressive governance in ISIS strongholds Aleppo and Raqqa. Rebels made advances early Aug after capturing villages and facilities in President Assad’s home province Latakia, 6 Aug seized army airbase outside Aleppo following 10-month siege. Regime forces 19 Aug pushed rebels out of Latakia, 21 Aug launched offensive to regain rebel-held territory around Damascus. Estimated 40,000 mostly Syrian Kurds fled to Iraqi Kurdistan starting mid-Aug due to increased fighting between Kurdish militias and Islamist extremist rebel factions in Kurdish areas of NE Syria.

Syria

  |  1 Aug 2013

Unchanged

Opposition militants regained initiative on northern and southern fronts, 22 July seized Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province. Regime forces continued gains in Homs and Damascus suburbs, reportedly killing at least 49 rebels 21 July, 29 July seized Khaldiya district of Homs from rebels. Syrian National Coalition (NC) 6 July elected Ahmad al-Jarba as new leader; election shifted balance of regional influence within NC from Doha to Riyadh. Interim PM Hitto, elected by NC in March, resigned 8 July after failing to form interim govt. Armed opposition saw internal fighting among factions: al-Qaeda Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) emir 11 July killed prominent mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel commander Abu Bassel al-Ladkani in Latakia. Violent clashes resumed between Kurdish militants and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in various northern towns 16 July; militants 31 July reportedly took some 200 Kurdish civilians hostage after seizing 2 northern towns. UK PM Cameron 21 July indicated UK will not arm Syrian rebels; last U.S. congressional bars to arming rebels lifted 22 July. New Israeli air strike 5 July on warehouse in Latakia (see Israel/Palestine).

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2013

Deteriorated

Conflict’s transition to regional sectarian struggle continued to gain momentum. Regime continues to rely more heavily on foreign fighters: backed by Hizbollah fighters, Syrian army 5 June recaptured town of Qusayr near Lebanon border from rebels; launched offensives on Aleppo 11 June and Homs 29 June in bid to retake rebel-controlled areas. Iraqi Shiite militiamen reported to be streaming in in greater numbers, deploying in various parts of country. Rebel attack near military airport in Damascus 16 June reportedly killed at least 20 soldiers; 11 June massacre of Shiites in eastern village Hatla, reportedly carried out by opposition armed groups, further heightened sectarian tensions. Assembled in Cairo, leading Sunni clerics 13 June made joint call for jihad in Syria, endorsed by Egyptian President Morsi. Golan Heights border crossing briefly taken by rebels 6 June, recaptured a few hours later by Syrian army; Austria 11 June began withdrawing its UNDOF peacekeepers from Golan. U.S. 13 June committed to providing military support to rebels after assessing that regime has used chemical weapons; Friends of Syria group 22 June met in Doha to coordinate future arms delivery to Syrian rebels, while Russia 4 June defended planned delivery of MIGs and S-300 missiles to Syrian military saying it was in line with international law. Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief commander Salim Idriss 21 June affirmed FSA received arms shipments. Leaders at G8 summit 17-18 June failed to agree on resolution of Syrian conflict but committed to push for planned Geneva peace conference. UN/Arab League envoy Brahimi 25 June said Geneva conference unlikely until at least Aug as opposition doesn’t appear ready. Russia 26 June completed withdrawal of all military personnel from Syria due to security threat. UN 7 June launched largest ever humanitarian aid appeal of $5bn.

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2013

Deteriorated

Fears of wider regional conflict grew after Israeli jets 5 May targeted military base in Damascus reportedly housing Iranian missiles for Hizbollah, killing several in first major Israeli strike. Followed reported earlier strike on shipment of weapons headed for Lebanon. In response, President Assad and Hizbollah threatened to turn Golan Heights into “resistance front”. Opposition accused regime forces of massacre, killing at least 50 people in Baida 2 May. Fighting ongoing in al-Qusayr between Syrian rebels and govt troops backed by Hizbollah fighters. Regime forces 8 May retook strategic town Khirbet Ghazaleh after 2-month bombardment, reestablished control of supply route to Daraa. Rebel Yarmouk Martyrs’ Brigade 12 May freed 4 Filippino UN peacekeepers captured 5 days earlier near Golan Heights. U.S. and Russia 7 May agreed to convene a new peace conference in Geneva in June; Syrian govt 24 May agreed “in principle” to attend but opposition Syrian National Coalition (NC) 30 May threatened to boycott conference if Hizbollah and Iran keep “invading” Syria. NC failed to elect new leader during talks in Istanbul. UNGA 15 May adopted resolution condemning ongoing violence in Syria; 31 May added militant group Jabhat al-Nusra to sanctions list due to al-Qaeda ties. EU 27 May lifted arms embargo on Syria; EU foreign policy chief Ashton said no current plans to deliver arms. Russia 28 May said it would honour contract to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syrian govt; Israel suggested it could strike any Russian arms shipment to Syria.

Syria

  |  1 May 2013

Unchanged

Opposition further consolidated foothold in south with seizure of military base near Daraa 3 April, while regime forces mounted successful counter-attacks in Damascus, Homs, 14 April broke 6-month rebel siege of Wadi al-Deif and Hamidiya military compounds outside Maarat al-Numan in north. Fighting intensified in western city Al-Qusayr; Hizbollah fighters from Lebanon reported to be leading Al-Qusayr operation against rebels. Army 11 April launched retaliatory attacks on Sanamein and Ghabagheb villages in Deraa province, accused of harbouring deserters; dozens of civilians reported killed. Regime PM al-Halki survived bomb attack on his convoy in Damascus in which 6 died 29 April. 13 killed by car bomb in central Damascus 30 April. Reports emerged 22 April of several hundred civilians killed in alleged regime massacre SW of Damascus. Rebel armed group Jabhat al-Nusra 10 April refuted reports it had merged with al-Qaeda in Iraq but pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda central. UN set to investigate mounting allegations that regime is using chemical weapons. Rebels 22 April abducted 2 Aleppo archbishops. Opposition Syrian National Coalition (NC) PM Hitto 6 April begun talks to form interim govt; NC 22 April named George Sabra as interim leader. President Assad 16 April offered reduced prison sentences for some detained rebels. UN/Arab League envoy Brahimi 19 April deplored lack of cooperation from regime, urged UNSC action; denied rumours he plans to resign. 5 top UN humanitarian officials issued plea for international aid. U.S. 21 April said will double non-lethal aid for rebels to $250m; EU 22 April eased oil embargo for opposition, remains divided on arms ban.

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2013

Deteriorated

First credible reports emerged of chemical weapons use: govt and rebels accused each other of firing a rocket loaded with chemical agents near Aleppo 19 March; opposition 25 March said govt killed 2, wounded 23 in chemical missile attack on Adra, near Damascus. 49 killed, including key pro-regime cleric, in attack on Damascus mosque 21 March; 20 killed in mortar attack on Damascus University 28 March. President Assad 22 March vowed to “cleanse” Syria of extremism. Rebel advance continued: rebels early March captured northern city Raqqa, their first entire provincial capital, began renewed push into Baba Amr, Homs. In Istanbul Syrian National Coalition (NC) 19 March elected Ghassan Hitto PM for rebel-held areas of Syria; NC leader Moaz al-Khatib resigned 24 March over “lack of help” from international community. At EU summit 15 March France and UK faced opposition to their proposal that EU arms embargo be lifted to allow arming of rebels. Rebel group “Martyrs of Yarmouk” 6 March captured 21 Filipino UN peacekeepers monitoring 1973 Israel-Syria armistice line in Golan, released 9 March. UN 25 March announced temporary withdrawal of some staff from Damascus citing insecurity. Syrian opposition opened embassy in Qatar 27 March, day after assuming Syrian seat at Arab League summit.

Syria

  |  1 Mar 2013

Deteriorated

Month saw violence on part of regime further escalating, with use of Scud missiles, as UN 27 Feb warned of severe rise in refugees and a humanitarian situation “dramatic beyond description”. Rebels continue to consolidate hold on North and East, made several strategic gains. Renewed clashes reported in Aleppo end Feb; Human Rights Watch reported govt ballistic missile strikes in civilian areas killed over 100. Rebels launched new offensive on regime stronghold Damascus. Car bomb 21 Feb killed dozens, injured over 200 in central Damascus near ruling Ba’ath party HQ. Reports emerged of worsening maltreatment and torture of prisoners in govt jails. UN/Arab League Envoy Brahimi 17 Feb, Syrian National Coalition (NC) 22 Feb announced support for NC leader Mouaz Khatib’s Jan initiative for conditional talks with regime; Brahimi called for talks between opposition and “acceptable delegation” from govt; Syrian FM Walid al-Moualem 25 Feb said regime is prepared to talk to armed opposition. EU 19 Feb renewed arms embargo on Syria for further 3 months with amendment allowing more non-lethal and technical support for civilian protection. NC 23 Feb threatened to boycott 28 Feb “Friends of Syria” meeting with Western backers due to lack of international condemnation following govt’s bombardment of Aleppo; rescinded after condemnations issued, Western states promised increased non-lethal aid. NC 22 Feb announced it would establish govt to run rebel “liberated” areas of country. Brahimi’s contract extended to end-2013.

Syria

  |  1 Feb 2013

Unchanged

Over 80 killed 15 Jan in reported govt missile strike at Aleppo University housing students, people displaced by conflict; over 100 killed same day in Basatin al-Hasawiya, outside Homs, reportedly by forces loyal to President Assad; over 70 bodies found massacred in Aleppo river 29 Jan. UN/Arab League Envoy Brahimi 29 urged UNSC to overcome differences, support plan for political transition, said country “being destroyed”. Following rare visit across conflict lines by UN humanitarian delegation, UN official 21 Jan said conditions “appalling”. President Assad 6 Jan pledged to continue fighting “terrorist” violence but offered national dialogue, constitutional referendum to end crisis; plan roundly rejected, as no indication he would step down as first stage of political transition. Islamist rebels 24 Jan reportedly raided civilian opposition organisations’ HQs in Saraqib. Rebels mid-month clashed with govt-leaning Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in NE; 11 Jan captured Taftanaz airbase, northern Idlib province. Israeli airstrike on convoy in Syria reportedly carrying weapons to Lebanon 30 Jan. Exile Syrian National Coalition leader Khatib 30 Jan set conditions for opposition’s direct talks with regime representatives; prospect rejected immediately by Syrian National Council component of National Coalition. National Coalition 21 Jan failed to form transitional govt at talks in Istanbul. Over 50 UN member states 14 Jan requested ICC investigation into possible war crimes by both sides; Russia 15 Jan said it would block effort.

Syria

  |  30 Dec 2012

Deteriorated

Violence escalated with rising death tolls and displacement; intense fighting continued in Aleppo, reached new levels in Damascus, where fighting most intense in southern suburbs, particularly Palestinian-dominated Yarmouk where mid-Dec airstrikes and clashes left scores dead and caused mass exodus. Increased violence in Hama province as rebels launched new offensive, gained several towns; regime air strike, among most deadly to date, in Halfaya, Hama province killed dozens 24 Dec; nearly 400 reported killed 29 Dec, including approx 150 bodies found in Deir Baalba, Homs. Govt denied reports regime using Scud missiles. UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria 20 Dec said conflict escalating, becoming increasingly sectarian: video posted 12 Dec showed rebels destroying Shiite mosque in north; up to 200 Alawite civilians killed in Aqrab early Dec. UN 19 Dec increased refugee and IDP projections following significant increase in civilians fleeing Syria. Remainder of “Friends of Syria” group, including U.S., 12 Dec recognised National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, formed Nov, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people at Morocco conference. U.S. 11 Dec officially designated rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra as terrorist organisation. UN/Arab League Envoy Brahimi met President Assad and opposition in Damascus late Dec, visited Moscow 29 Dec to discuss proposals for ending conflict, expressed strong support for “Geneva plan” based on formation of transitional govt; Assad 26 Dec sent senior diplomat to Moscow to discuss proposals. National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib 28 Dec rejected Russia’s invitation for peace talks, demanded Russian apology for its support for Assad; said could meet in Arab country if clear agenda set. Major General Abdelaziz Jassim al-Shalal, head of Syria’s military police, defected 25 Dec.

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2012

Unchanged

Opposition 12 Nov announced break-through formation of National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces following week of talks in Qatar, external pressure. Former Syrian National Council merged into new body; former Damascene imam, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, named leader. 6 Gulf states 12 Nov, France 13 Nov, Turkey 15 Nov, UK 21 Nov, Spain 29 Nov formally recognised coalition as sole legitimate representative of Syrian people. Opposition forces in Aleppo 20 Nov voiced support for coalition day after rejecting it, called for greater representation; Syrian-Kurdish PYD party 20 Nov rejected coalition. Worst violence in months in southern, eastern Damascus rebel strongholds included airstrikes, fierce clashes; dozens killed in 2 car bombs 28 Nov; fighting 29 Nov closed Damascus Airport. Number of strategic gains by rebels, winning control of oil field, hydroelectric dam, several army bases; weapons captured. Rebel Free Syria Army 9 Nov captured Ras al-Ain on Turkish border; army responded with days of intense bombardment, occasionally spilling into Turkey: fighting sparked unprecedented exodus into Turkey. Month saw several incursions into Golan Heights demilitarised zone; Israel sought UN action, in later incidents responded with direct fire. Rebels 7 Nov shelled mainly Alawite Damascus district.

Syria

  |  1 Nov 2012

Unchanged

Fighting between govt and rebels continued with reported death tolls frequently exceeding 100 per day, ongoing internal and external displacement. Ceasefire brokered by UN/Arab League envoy Brahimi for Eid al-Adha festival 26-30 Oct repeatedly broken with extensive fighting across country. Surge in regime airstrikes late Oct; Syrian rights activists claimed 29 Oct worst day yet of regime air raids. Rebels continued attempts to establish “safe zone” in north, 9 Oct recaptured strategic town Maarrat al-Nu’man; battle for nearby Wadi al-Deif base ongoing. As Egyptian “contact group” on Syria appeared to stall, Qatar 15 Oct called for “well-armed” peacekeeping force. Mid-month formation of “committee of wise men” by former Syrian National Council president Ghalioun met with widespread cynicism. At least 30 killed in first reported case of Syrian-Arab rebels exchanging fire with Syrian Kurds in Aleppo 24 Oct; clashes ongoing. Turkish PKK threatened intervention if clashes persist. Reports emerged early Oct of late Sept clash between rival Alawite clans in al-Qardaha, President Assad’s hometown. State TV 30 Oct reported “terrorist” assassination of air force general Abdullah Mahmoud Al-Khalidi; some activists assert regime responsible, claim Khalidi wanted to defect, regime acted in anticipation. Concerns over regional instability exacerbated by ongoing cross-border fire with Turkey (see Turkey).

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2012

Deteriorated

Casualties and displacement continued to rise as fighting between rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian military continued, with regime forces conducting large-scale military operations, bombing raids on opposition-controlled areas. UNHRC-mandated Commission of Inquiry 17 Sept reported regime’s “gross violations of human rights”, said violations significantly increased throughout late Aug, early Sept with indiscriminate attacks against civilians occurring daily; Human Rights Watch 17 Sept accused Syrian opposition groups of committing war crimes including torture and summary execution of prisoners. New UN/Arab League envoy Brahimi met with interlocutors including President Assad throughout month. Egyptian initiative comprising Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey met 17, 27 Sept, cautioned against expectations of quick solution to crisis; Saudi Arabia absent both occasions. Opposition National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB) 23 Sept called for regime overthrow at meeting in Damascus attended by Iranian, Russian, Chinese diplomats; stated opposition to violent uprising, foreign military intervention.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2012

Deteriorated

Month saw scores of civilians killed by clashes between rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and pro-regime forces fighting for control of Aleppo; govt continued airstrikes against towns in northern Syria. Fighting, shelling continued throughout month in Damascus killing scores. Opposition 26 Aug accused regime of massacre following discovery of some 300 bodies in Daraya; UNSG Ban 27 Aug called for immediate investigation. Newly appointed PM Hijab 6 Aug defected to Jordan; VP Shara 26 Aug denied own defection. Syrian, Jordanian troops 10 Aug clashed along border (see Jordan). UN/Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan resigned 2 Aug; UNSC 16 Aug ended UN observer mission, agreed to set up civilian liaison office; veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi announced as new UN envoy 16 Aug. UNGA 3 Aug passed resolution condemning Syrian govt’s use of heavy weapons, UNSC inaction. UN Human Rights Council report 15 Aug concluded Syrian army, pro-regime militia responsible for March killing of 108 in Houla. FSA 4 Aug announced abduction of some 48 Iranian Shiites, allegedly members of Iranian Revolutionary Guards; Organisation of Islamic Countries 16 Aug suspended Syria.

Syria

  |  1 Aug 2012

Deteriorated

Month saw fierce fighting spread to Aleppo and Damascus, seizure by rebels of border crossings with Turkey and Iraq, thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries. ICRC 15 July declared Syria “non-international armed conflict”. 4 senior officials assassinated in 18 July bombing of national security HQ in Damascus, including top security chief Shawkat, Defence Minister Rajiha, intelligence chief Bekhtyar. Senior defections reported, including close-Assad confidant and Republican Guard Brig Gen Tlass, prominent tribal chief and Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Nawaf Fares. Numerous massacres reported by opposition activists, including some 200 allegedly killed by regime forces in Tremseh. Concern over Syria’s unconventional weapon stockpiles increased: foreign ministry 23 July said chemical weapons to be used only against external aggression; Israel vowed to prevent any transfer to Hizbullah. Russia, China 19 July vetoed UNSC Chapter VII resolution threatening sanctions. UNSC 20 July extended UNSMIS mandate for “final” 30-days, appointed Senegalese Lieutenant General Gaye as new mission head. Kurdish forces reportedly consolidated control over N-E Syria. Kurdish opposition Democratic Union party (PYD), Kurdish National Councils (KNC) mid-month met in Erbil (Iraq) under auspices of Iraqi Kurdish Regional Govt President Barzani, agreed to form Supreme Kurdish Council, popular defence forces.

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2012

Unchanged Risk Alert

Month saw continued insecurity, massacres of civilians: UN/Arab League Envoy Annan 2 June warned of all-out sectarian war; UNSG Ban 8 June said little evidence govt complying with peace plan; UN Peacekeeping head Ladsous 12 June said Syria in civil war; UN Supervision Mission (UNSMIS) 16 June suspended operations due to increased risk to monitors, lack of willingness by parties to seek peaceful transition; President Assad 27 June reported Syria in state of war. Turkey said fighter jet downed 22 June by Syria in international airspace, search and rescue plane shot at 25 June; PM Erdoğan 26 June instructed Turkish army to treat Syrian military units approaching border as threat; NATO SG Rasmussen said NATO stood by Turkey following Article IV consultations. Activists claimed pro-regime militias 31 May executed 13 workers near Qusair, 7 June slaughtered 78 civilians in Mazraat al-Qubair. Regime said 25 men shot by rebels in Darat Izza; 7 executed during attack on pro-govt TV station in Drusha. Heavy shelling of towns by regime continued, including Deraa, Homs; fierce fighting reported 26 June in Damascus between Free Syrian Army, elite Republican Guard. Newly-formed UN Action Group 30 June backed Annan calls for national unity govt. Opposition Syrian National Council 10 June elected Kurdish activist Abdelbaset Sayda as new chairman. President Assad 6 June appointed Agriculture Minister and loyalist Riad Hijab as new PM.

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2012

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Month saw continued violence, fighting despite presence of UN monitors. UN reported 108 killed 25 May in Houla during regime shelling, many summarily executed; residents reported scores of women, children massacred by pro-regime Alawite militia, attribution disputed by regime, questioned by Russia; UNSC condemned killings, use of heavy weapons by regime; numerous countries, including U.S., France, UK expelled Syrian diplomats. UN 29 May found 13 executed near Deir al-Zour. Series of bombings: 5 May reportedly targeting business in Aleppo linked to pro-regime militia, at least 5 killed; 10 May against military intelligence building in Damascus, 55 reported killed, 372 wounded; 19 May against security building in Deir al-Zour, 9 killed. Security forces 3 May stormed Aleppo university campus following anti-regime protest by students, 5 killed, over 200 arrested; thousands 18 May demonstrated in Aleppo in solidarity with students. Security forces 15 May attacked funeral in Khan Sheikhoun during UNSMIS visit, 20 reported killed, 3 UN vehicles damaged. Opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) 20 May claimed 6 senior regime officials poisoned, including head of Syrian intelligence Asif Shawkat. UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan 28 May arrived in Damascus to push for implementation of peace plan, warned Syria at “tipping point”. UNSG Ban 31 May said Syria moving towards “catastrophic” civil war, demanded Syria implement peace plan. Senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander late-month reportedly confirmed Iranian troop presence in Syria. As part of regime touted reforms, 7 May parliamentary elections held amid low turnout, opposition boycott. Opposition Syrian National Council chairman Burhan Ghalioun 17 May resigned following widespread criticism.

Syria

  |  1 May 2012

Unchanged Risk Alert

Early-month saw upsurge in violence despite acceptance of Annan peace plan by Syrian regime, opposition. Security forces 9 April opened fire on Turkish refugee camp in Kilis, 2 killed. Following UN pressure, regime 12 April agreed to ceasefire with opposition; UNSG 24 April expressed alarm at surge in regime violence, 26 April said regime in contravention of peace plan; France 25 April said UNSC should consider use of force; U.S. 27 April said “patience exhausted”. Renewed anti-regime demonstrations took place mid-month despite continued regime targeting. UNSC 14 April unanimously approved deployment of 30 UN observers, 21 April voted to increase number to 300. Activists 23 April claimed Hama shelled by regime as punishment for UN visit, dozens reported killed, 26 April reported up to 70 killed in explosion in Hama. Regime 27 April said 10 killed in “suicide bombing” in Damascus. At least 9 killed in 30 April blasts in Idlib reportedly targeting security buildings. Opposition fighters 28 April reportedly launched sea raid in Latakia province. 2nd Friends of Syria Summit held 1 April in Istanbul, opposition group SNC said rebel fighters to receive salaries. EU 23 April agreed new round of sanctions against Syria.  

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2012

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Month saw continued descent into civil war with increased clashes between opposition armed groups and security forces, growing humanitarian concerns, continuing anti-regime protests countrywide: govt forces continued onslaught against opposition strongholds; activists said civilians massacred. 27 reported killed 17 March by car-bombs targeting Damascus security buildings; shadowy Islamist group al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant claimed responsibility. 2 killed 18 March by car bomb in Aleppo. UNSG Ban 2 March said regime committed widespread crimes against civilians, 21 March warned crisis has “potentially massive repercussions”. UNSC same day issued non-binding presidential statement supporting UN/Arab League Special Envoy Annan’s 6-point plan including calls for UN supervised ceasefire, humanitarian access; Syria 27 March accepted peace plan, but many questions remain regarding implementation; Syria 31 March announced troops to stay in residential areas until “peace and security” achieved. Outgoing Russian President Medvedev 25 March said Annan mission last chance for Syria to avoid civil war; UN 15 March said 200,000 Syrians displaced during conflict; Turkish PM Erdogan 16 March raised possibility of buffer zone inside Syria to protect refugees. HRW 13 March said regime mining routes used by escaping refugees along Turkish, Lebanese borders; 20 March accused armed opposition elements of human rights abuses against regime loyalists. UN HRC 23 March extended mandate of UN expert panel investigating alleged abuses; UNHR chief Pillay 28 March said regime “systematically detaining and torturing children”. EU 23 March imposed sanctions on al-Assad family members.

Syria

  |  1 Mar 2012

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Fears of civil war grew with regime targeting protesters and civilians on unprecedented scale, ongoing clashes between security forces and Free Syrian Army across country; UN 28 Feb announced over 7,500 killed so far. Regime 4 Feb began heavy shelling of Homs, killing 2 Western journalists 22 Feb; opposition warned of massacre. 2 truck-bombs 10 Feb targeted security compounds in Aleppo killing 28. Al-Qaida leader al-Zawahiri 12 Feb vowed support for uprising. Security forces 19 Feb fired on estimated 15,000 demonstrators in Damascus. International community remained divided: Russia, China 4 Feb vetoed UNSC draft resolution backed by Arab League (AL) condemning violent crackdown and supporting Jan AL roadmap; AL 12 Feb called for joint UN/AL peacekeeping mission; UNGA 16 Feb approved Arab-backed resolution condemning human rights violations. UN HR chief Pillay 13 Feb called for ICC referral of situation; UN Commission of Inquiry 23 Feb reported Syrian security forces, senior officials responsible for gross, systematic human rights violations. UN Human Rights Council 28 Feb held emergency session; Pillay described rapidly deteriorating situation. U.S. 22 Feb warned of "additional measures" if regime fails to end violence. Kofi Annan appointed UN-AL special envoy to Syria 23 Feb. “Friends of Syria” contact group - including 60 countries - 24 Feb met in Tunis, recognised opposition Syrian National Council as “a legitimate representative of Syrians”; Saudi Arabia, Qatar vowed to arm opposition; EU 27 Feb announced new sanctions against Syria; France, U.S. 28 Feb drafting new UNSC resolution to alleviate humanitarian suffering. Russia 7 Feb, China 17 Feb dispatched envoys to Damascus: Russian FM Lavrov called for solution based on Dec AL peace initiative; Chinese deputy FM Zhai Jun backed Syrian reforms. National referendum 26 Feb approved new constitution removing Ba’ath party monopoly.

Syria

  |  1 Feb 2012

Deteriorated Risk Alert

UNSC in debate 31 Jan failed to agree on resolution calling on Assad to step down, talks continue. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 18 Jan stated Russia would reject sanctions, use UNSC veto to block any proposals for military intervention; Britain, France, U.S. 24 Jan condemned Russia’s sales of weapons to Syria. Gulf Arab states 24 Jan withdrew observers after govt rejected plan for President Assad to surrender power; Arab League 24 Jan requested meeting with UNSG Ban to discuss crisis, demand UNSC support. Arab League 28 Jan announced withdrawal of observers due to increased violence; FM Muallem 24 Jan accused Arab League of plotting to internationalise crisis. Despite continued violent crackdown on anti-govt protests, wide-scale demonstrations in support of Free Syrian Army continued throughout Jan. Damascus suicide bombs 6 Jan killed 25; explosions in Idlib province 21 Jan killed at least 14; at least 37 reported killed by security forces 27 Jan; 17 dead found 28 Jan on streets, allegedly killed by govt forces; at least 33 killed in attack by govt forces in Rankous, north of Damascus. Activists 30 Jan claimed over 100 dead, mostly in Homs.

Syria

  |  2 Jan 2012

Unchanged

UN reported over 5,000 people killed in 9-month crackdown on anti-regime protests; regime said over 2,000 security force members killed. Hundreds of thousands continued to protest against President Assad as violence intensified. Increasing defections to Free Syrian Army and attacks on security forces. General strike started early month along with numerous forms of civil disobedience. EU 2 Dec imposed sanctions on 3 Syrian oil firms, including state-owned Sytrol. Regime 12 Dec signed Arab League (AL) peace plan, agreeing to let in monitors, pull troops from protest-hit towns, free political prisoners and start talking to opposition. UNGA 19 Dec condemned Syria for crackdown and rights abuses; UNSC continued to debate resolution. Regime escalated crackdown ahead of arrival of Arab League observers, with over 200 people killed 19-20 Dec. Advance team of AL monitors arrived 22 Dec, nearly 100 by end-Dec; over 150 people reported killed since monitors’ mission began. Twin car bomb attack 23 Dec on security buildings in Damascus killed 44, injured over 150; officials blamed al-Qaeda, opposition figures accused govt of staging attack. Govt 28 Dec said 755 prisoners released in compliance with Arab League plan.

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2011

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Fears of escalation in violence as month saw failed Arab League attempt to end bloodshed, accelerated militarisation of protest movement, internationalisation of conflict. UN reported some 3,500 killed in crackdown on ongoing anti-regime protests. Authorities blamed violence on foreign-backed armed groups, said killed some 1,100 soldiers and police. Opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) 7 Nov called for international intervention in security forces siege of central city Homs, called it “humanitarian disaster area”. Arab League 12 Nov voted to suspend Syria after it failed to implement 2 Nov deal to end bloodshed and withdraw forces from cities; Russian FM Lavrov called suspension ploy by West to destabilise Syria. Pro-Assad crowds 12 Nov attacked Saudi Arabian embassy, French and Turkish consulates. President Assad 20 Nov said parliamentary elections would be held early-2012 ahead of new constitution including provisions for presidential elections; govt said over 2,000 political prisoners released in month. UNGA 22 Nov adopted non-binding resolution condemning Syria’s actions. French FM Juppe 23 Nov said France seeking international recognition for SNC at UN. UNHRC published report 28 Nov accused regime of systematic murder, torture and rape. Escalating attacks by Free Syrian Army, made up of army defectors, including killing of 8 soldiers in 26 Nov ambush in Idlib. Arab League 27 Nov agreed economic sanctions against regime; Turkey 30 Nov imposed financial sanctions.

Syria

  |  1 Nov 2011

Unchanged

UN reported over 3,000 now killed in crackdown on ongoing anti-regime protests, including at least 187 children; thousands more arrested, tortured or disappeared. UNSC resolution condemning Syria vetoed 5 Oct by Russia and China over mention of possible sanctions. FM Moallem 9 Oct warned foreign countries not to recognise newly formed opposition Syrian National Council. Kurdish opposition leader Mashaal Tammo killed 7 Oct by gunmen; at least 5 killed by security forces as tens of thousands attended funeral. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Damascus, Aleppo in govt-organised rallies in support of President Assad.  U.S. Ambassador Ford 24 Oct left country after receiving threats; Damascus immediately withdrew Washington envoy. In deadliest Friday demonstrations since May some 35 reportedly killed 28 Oct, mostly in Homs and Hama. Increased clashes between army defectors and security forces including clash 29 Oct in Homs that reportedly killed 20 soldiers, injured 50. NATO Sec Gen Rasmussen 31 Oct ruled out possibility of military intervention. Arab League 30 Oct called for end to violence, release of prisoners, negotiations with opposition in Cairo from 2 Nov.

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2011

Unchanged

UN reports military crackdown has killed at least 2,700 people during continued nationwide uprising against Assad regime. Tanks pounded towns in central region of Homs, major flashpoint between troops loyal to President Assad and army defectors. Syrian authorities claim 700 police and army killed during unrest by “terrorists” and “mutineers”. At least 200 opposition members gathered 16 Sept in meeting of National Co-ordinating body outside Damascus. Group of activists 16 Sept formed Syrian National Council in Istanbul, marking 6 month anniversary of beginning of uprising. UNSG Ban 15 Sept said Assad has repeatedly broken promises of reform, called for international action. OHCHR 23 Sept alarmed by “increasingly brutal crackdown”, urged UNSC to refer Syria to ICC. Turkey 23 Sept imposed arms embargo against Syria for brutal crackdown on pro-democracy uprising; EU increased sanctions primarily on oil sector. U.S. Ambassador Ford mobbed by Assad supporters 29 Sept while visiting opposition figure in Damascus; officials accused U.S. of interference, inciting violence against security forces.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2011

Deteriorated

Thousands took part in end of Ramadan anti-govt protests across country, despite increased crackdown on major flashpoint cities; UN 23 Aug reported govt forces killed nearly 2,200 since unrest erupted mid-March. Armoured forces backed by tanks and snipers continued to crush protests in Daraa, Damascus, Homs, Latakia, Deir el-Zour and elsewhere. At least 45 people reported killed 3 Aug in military assault in Hama. Navy gunboats 14 Aug began firing on coastal city Latakia killing at least 28; 5,000 Palestinians also driven from al-Ramal camp. UNSC 3 Aug released first statement condemning rights violations against protesters. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah 6 Aug recalled envoy to Syria, urged President Assad to “stop the killing machine”. Arab League 7 Aug for first time condemned action of Syrian authorities; Sec Gen Nabil al-Arabi visited Syria 28 Aug. UNOHCHR 18 Aug published report on crackdown, recommended referral to ICC over possible crimes against humanity; UNHRC 24 Aug ordered independent investigation into violence. U.S., EU same day urged UN sanctions, called for Assad to step down; Washington froze all Syrian assets under U.S. jurisdiction. Foreign ministry rebutted western accusations, said regime facing threat from “terrorists”; Assad 21 Aug said govt will not fall.

Syria

  |  1 Aug 2011

Deteriorated

Security forces backed by tanks 31 July launched assault on rebellious cities, scores killed nationwide with over 80 reported killed in flashpoint city of Hama; international community condemned violence, U.S. embassy said govt launched “full-on warfare” against its own people. Syrian rights groups said more than 1,600 people killed, at least 12,000 arrested since unrest began in March. Hundreds of thousands took to streets over month as daily anti-regime protests continued to spread, including to Homs, Hama. “National Dialogue” meeting opened 10 July, opposition figures boycotted, said any reform would remain on paper as long as security apparatus continues to operate with impunity. President Assad 20 July in 3rd speech since uprising began again promised reforms. Cabinet 24 July approved law allowing formation of political parties other than ruling Baath party, 26 July approved new election law; opposition dismissed “cosmetic” changes. 2 special advisers to UNSG Ban 22 July warned “serious possibility” regime had committed crimes against humanity, called for independent investigation.

 

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2011

Unchanged

Repression continued. Opposition said some 1,400 people killed since March in ongoing regime crackdown on anti-regime protests, including over 150 in scorched earth campaign in NW province Idlib near Turkish border. Regime claimed “armed thugs”, foreign conspirators behind violence; military spokesman 26 June claimed over 300 members of security forces killed. Over 12,000 civilians fled across border to refugee camps in Turkey. President Assad 20 June, in third speech since uprising began, promised reforms including committee to study constitutional amendments; opponents said reforms too little, too late, too vague. Mass pro-regime demonstrations 21 June in several cities, clashes with anti-regime activists; rival rallies 30 June in Aleppo as unrest spread to Syria’s second city. Govt 27 June invited opposition figures to 10 July talks to set framework for dialogue; opposition dismissed offer, said not credible while mass killings and arrests continue. Tens of thousands protested 24 June in defiance of military crackdown, at least 15 reported killed across country; EU condemned “shocking violence” of regime, extended sanctions against those supporting crackdown. At least 10 killed 5 June in clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and IDF along border with Israeli-controlled Golan Heights (See Israel/OPT).

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2011

Deteriorated

Rights groups reported more than 1,100 killed, over 10,000 detained, widespread torture in 10-week violent crackdown on nationwide anti-regime protests; majority in southern Hauran Plain region where uprising first erupted. 44 killed 20 May as troops backed by tanks deployed at protest sites. Officials continued to blame violence on “armed criminal gangs”, said more than 120 members of security forces killed. EU, U.S. expanded sanctions on regime, added President Assad to list of officials banned from travelling, subject to assets freeze. U.S. President Obama 17 May said Assad must allow political transition or step aside. Assad 31 May issued general amnesty for all members of political movements including Muslim Brotherhood; opposition said amnesty comes too late. EU nations 24 May proposed resolution to UNSC condemning Syria for bloody crackdown but did not include UN sanctions, intervention. 2 killed, dozens wounded 15 May by IDF gunfire as pro-Palestinian protesters commemorating Nakba entered Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Govt condemned Israeli “criminal activities”; U.S. accused Damascus of inciting border clashes to divert attention from violent crackdown (See Israel/OPT). IAEA 24 May reported Dair Alzour site bombed by Israel in 2007 “very likely” nuclear reactor; govt 27 May reportedly offered full cooperation, will allow first inspection of site since 2008.

“Syrian troops ‘kill 44 protesters after Friday prayers’”, BBC, 21 May 2011.

Syria

  |  1 May 2011

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Sharp escalation in violence during month with some 550 civilians killed since start of anti-regime protests last month; over 110 protesters killed 22 Apr in worst day of bloodshed. Troops and tanks deployed 25 Apr in Deraa, besieged city where revolt began, in violent crackdown. Over 300 members of ruling Baath party resigned late month in protest at ongoing military assault on Deraa. UNSC 28 Apr failed to agree on joint statement condemning repression; UNHRC 29 Apr voted to investigate alleged crimes committed against civilians. U.S. 29 Apr imposed targeted sanctions against regime officials . President Assad 22 Apr lifted 48-year state of emergency, however protesters demanded end of Baath party monopoly, establishment of democratic political system. Authorities blamed armed groups, infiltrators and Sunni Muslim militant organisations for provoking violence by firing on civilians and security forces.

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2011

Deteriorated Risk Alert

Fears of further unrest after anti-regime protests spread across country over month, including to Damascus, from southern city Daraa, where at least 55 reported killed by security forces since 18 March. Dozens reported killed in other cities in violent crackdown by security forces; army deployed 27 March after 12 reportedly killed in northwestern port Latakia. In first public address since beginning of unrest, President Assad 30 March blamed foreign conspiracy; remarks seen as inflammatory. Assad 26 March reportedly released political prisoners, including lawyer Diana Jawabra; 31 March ordered study on replacing emergency laws, probe into civilian deaths. Cabinet resigned 29 March in face of protests. UNSG Ban 26 March phoned Assad to urge “maximum restraint”, U.S. condemned govt ”repression”. Syria 2 March agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to examine Homs acid purification plant on 1 April; U.S. 9 March said insufficient, warned Syria cannot be allowed to “stonewall” IAEA investigations.

Syria

  |  1 Mar 2011

Unchanged

Third peaceful protest in 3 weeks in Damascus violently dispersed 23 Feb by police; planned 5 Feb “Day of Rage” protests failed to draw any protesters. Govt 9 Feb allowed access to Facebook and YouTube 3 years after blocking websites. Higher State Security Court 14 Feb sentenced teenage blogger to 5 years in prison on charges of spying for CIA; U.S. criticised secret trial, appealed for release. Turkey PM Erdoğan 6 Feb praised booming ties with Syria at launch of public works on “friendship dam” at border between countries. 2 Iranian warships 23 Feb docked at Latakia, first Iranian navy vessels to pass through Suez Canal since 1979 revolution (see Iran).

Syria

  |  1 Feb 2011

Unchanged

Saudi-Syrian efforts to mediate tensions in Lebanon broke down 11 Jan; collapse of Lebanese coalition govt followed. Syria-Qatar-Turkey held trilateral summit 18 Jan in Damascus to discuss efforts at easing tensions in Lebanon. FM Walid Mouallem 27 Jan called on all parties in Lebanon to form unity govt under designate-PM Mikati (see Lebanon). Exiled leader of banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood 16 Jan offered to halt group’s political activity in exchange for right to return. President Assad 31 Jan said will not grant IAEA inspectors unrestricted access because it would amount to violation of sovereignty. Assad 31 Jan said no chance of popular uprising in Syria as ruling hierarchy closely linked to beliefs of people; opposition reportedly planning 5 Feb “day of rage” mirroring demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia.

Syria

  |  3 Jan 2011

Unchanged

Saudi-Syria mediation efforts to defuse tension in Lebanon ahead of Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) decision on former PM Hariri’s murder continued, but yet to produce anything tangible. During 9 Dec visit to Paris focusing on situation in Lebanon, President Assad said issue was an internal matter and solution could “only be Lebanese” (see Lebanon). IAEA Director General Amano 2 Dec said he had formally urged Damascus to provide inspectors with prompt access to remains of alleged nuclear weapons site al-Kibar; Syrian envoy 3 Dec dismissed claims as political, said should focus on Israel instead. UNSG Ban 3 Dec urged Israel-Syria to resume peace talks as soon as possible, recommended UN Disengagement Observer Force mandate to be extended by 6 months. U.S. President Obama 29 Dec appointed Robert Ford ambassador to Syria, first since 2005.

 

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2010

Unchanged

IAEA report 23 Nov said Syria refusing UN nuclear inspectors access to multiple sites, provided inconsistent or scant information; Syria said more information needed from IAEA before allowing visit. Officials 23 Nov condemned new Israeli law mandating national referendum on withdrawal from Golan Heights (See Israel/OPT). Israeli FM Lieberman 11 Nov declared peace talks with Syria should not be pursued; FM Moallem 14 Nov said Israel is not partner for peace. U.S. Sec State Clinton 12 Nov addressed reports of arms smuggling from Syria to Hizbollah, said Washington would not accept attempts to jeopardise Lebanon’s security. Saudi Prince Abdel-Aziz bin Abdullah 21 Nov visited Damascus as Saudi-Syrian efforts intensified to defuse tension in Lebanon ahead of Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) decision on former PM Hariri’s murder (See Lebanon).

Syria

  |  1 Nov 2010

Unchanged

FM Moallem 3 Oct said Turkey must mediate any indirect peace talks with Israel. President Assad 11 Oct said Israel hindering peace process, 28 Oct said Israel not interested in peace. Israeli media 8 Oct reported satellite images revealing Syrian scud missile and Hizbollah training base near Damascus. Assad 26 Oct accused U.S. of creating “chaos” abroad. U.S. ambassador to UN Susan Rice 28 Oct accused Damascus of destabilizing Lebanon by arming militias including Hizbollah. Assad 2 Oct visited Iran to reinforce ties, 11 Oct met Turkish PM Erdogan to discuss security strategy against PKK.

  • U.S. accuses Syria of destabilizing Lebanon”, New York Times, 28 Oct. 2010.
  • For latest reports, see Crisis Group Middle East Report N°92, Reshuffling the Cards? (I): Syria’s Evolving Strategy, 14 Dec. 2009, and Crisis Group Middle East Report N°93, Reshuffling the Cards? (II): Syria’s New Hand, 16 Dec. 2009.

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2010

Unchanged

U.S. Special Envoy Mitchell 16 Sept met President Assad, affirmed U.S. commitment to Israeli-Syria peace deal; reiterated by U.S. Sec State Clinton in 27 Sept meeting with FM Muallem. Iranian President Ahmadinejad met with Assad 18 Sept. Israel President Peres 20 Sept said Israel ready for direct negotiations with Syria. Further IAEA and Western pressure mid-month over Dair Alzour alleged nuclear site. Russia 17 Sept said advanced missile sales to Syria to go ahead. Restoration of diplomatic ties with Iraq announced 24 Sept.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2010

Unchanged

U.S. envoy to IAEA 3 Aug said agency should consider pushing for special inspection of alleged nuclear arms sites in Syria. Israel 5 Aug indicted 3 men for spying for Syria; FM Muallem in letter to UNSG Ban said charges fabricated. Reports emerged late month of new military cooperation between Hizbollah and Syria.

“IAEA should look at mandatory Syria inspection: U.S.”, Reuters, 3 Aug. 2010.

 

Syria

  |  1 Aug 2010

Unchanged

President Assad, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah 29 July held talks in Damascus before travelling to Beirut next day to ease tensions in Lebanon (see Lebanon). PM Otri and Lebanese PM Hariri signed economic agreements 18 July; Otri said bilateral cooperation must extend to security. No progress on demarcation of common borders. Elderly regime critic Haitham Maleh jailed 4 July for 3 years for “weakening national sentiment”.

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2010

Unchanged

In 15 June Damascus meeting President Assad and Lebanon President Sleiman called for firm Arab stance to break Gaza blockade, agreed to start demarcating their shared land and maritime borders, strengthen bilateral ties. Human rights activist jailed 23 June for 3 years for “weakening national sentiment”; U.S. 24 June called for his release. Ali Al-`Abdallah, journalist arrested Dec 2007 on same charges, faced new charges following 17 June scheduled release.

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