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Syria

  |  1 Jul 2016

Unchanged

U.S.-Russia engagement aimed at restoring cessation of hostilities continued without tangible progress, as increasing attacks by both Syrian sides and Russia’s military re-escalation, particularly around Aleppo, appeared to push diplomatic track toward collapse. Russian planes 16 June struck U.S.-trained rebel force committed exclusively to combatting Islamic State (IS) in camp along Jordanian and Iraqi border; same day, intense regime airstrikes continued in Aleppo, ignoring 48-hour “calm” Russia had declared in city. Russia 19 June reported agreement with U.S. to improve coordination between their military operations; U.S. previously refused such coordination, but reports from Washington on 30 June suggest its position may have shifted. Elsewhere, Kurdish YPG troops and their allies in YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 1 June launched campaign to capture city of Menbij, south of the last stretch of Syrian-Turkish border controlled by IS. Backed by U.S. air power and special forces, campaign managed to encircle city within days. Offensive represents significant shift by U.S., which previously urged YPG to hold back due to Turkish opposition; reversal apparently driven by IS gains against Turkey-backed rebels along border; U.S. gave Turkey assurances that YPG personnel will withdraw from city once it is captured. Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah 25 June vowed to increase the organisation’s forces in Aleppo, amid renewed pro-regime offensive in city. UN warned of increasing deaths in Damascus suburb Daraya unless regime unblocks aid convoys; concerns also grew for refugees on Jordanian border after Jordan blocked convoys in response to IS suicide bomb attack on military base 21 June killing seven soldiers (see Syria).

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2016

Unchanged
Following mid-April collapse of cessation of hostilities in north, diplomatic engagement and military escalation continued. High-level meetings between U.S. and Russian officials produced re-affirmations of truce in Lattakia, Damascus and Aleppo, but reducing violence only for short, pre-defined periods. Regime and Iran-backed Shia foreign forces/proxies escalated in Aleppo as truce continued to erode, however they were unable to gain territory and suffered significant setback south of city where dozens of pro-regime fighters were killed including Iranians as Jaish al-Fateh rebel alliance recaptured village of Khan Touman 6 May. Russian airstrikes remain at lower level than prior to Feb cessation, though reportedly began to hit Aleppo city again starting 22 May. At least 23 reported killed in Russian airstrikes on Idlib 31 May. Islamic State (IS) claimed series of bombings on regime coastal stronghold starting 23 May, reportedly killing over 100 civilians. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces 24 May began offensive against IS near its de facto capital Raqqa; IS captured territory from rebels near Turkish border late month, with dozens killed in fighting. U.S. continued to push for return to cessation; UN envoy de Mistura 26 May told UNSG Ban no new round of talks likely for two-to-three weeks. Chief opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush resigned late month citing failure of talks. Mustafa Badreddine, top Hizbollah commander believed to be organisation’s most senior official in Syria, killed 12 May (see Lebanon). Syrian pound depreciated further, fuelling concern over humanitarian situation. UN late month reported humanitarian aid reaching only a fraction of those in need, as govt continues to block supplies to several areas it is besieging. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported at least 60,000 people have died in govt jails since beginning of conflict in 2011.

Syria

  |  2 May 2016

Deteriorated
Month saw fragile “cessation of hostilities” which began 27 Feb collapse in N Syria and UN-brokered talks in Geneva unravel; regime and rebel shelling resulted in over 250 people reported killed in Aleppo 22-30 April, including in 27 April regime airstrike on hospital killing 50. Weeks of deterioration culminated 19 April with regime airstrikes on market in rebel-held Maarat al-Nauman in Idlib province, killing dozens. Opposition 19 April suspended participation in Geneva talks, citing continued regime military offensives and lack of progress in improving humanitarian conditions. Violence in Aleppo escalated as regime and Iran-backed militias began major offensive on city mid-April, while non-jihadist rebel factions joined Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) in escalating counter-attacks. Islamic State (IS) 27 April seized villages north of Aleppo along Turkish border, reversing rebel progress achieved early April. Initial casualty figures and pro-regime media reports suggest participation of allied foreign fighters and Iranian military personnel including from Iranian army in Aleppo at all-time high. As violence in Aleppo escalated, UN Special Envoy De Mistura 28 April called on Russia and U.S. to salvage ceasefire. Syrian army announced temporary “regime of calm” beginning 30 April, although Aleppo excluded, and most major opposition groups rejected regional ceasefires. UN rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein warned of reports of military build-ups indicating immanent escalation. Fighting continued elsewhere, including clashes between Kurdish forces affiliated with YPG and pro-regime militiamen in YPG-dominated city of Qamishli 20 April, prompting nearby regime forces to shell Kurdish neighbourhoods in Qamishli. Attacks against IS and JN continued, including four U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near two cities hitting three tactical units and destroying two fighting positions 23 April. Regime held parliamentary elections 13 April; Washington dismissed elections, Russia reiterated agreement that new elections should be held once political process produces new constitution. U.S. President Obama 25 April announced 250 U.S. special forces to be deployed to assist local militia in fight against IS.

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2016

Improved
Russian President Putin 14 March announced Russia would withdraw “main part” of assets that have conducted operations in Syria since Sept 2015; air and naval bases near Syrian coast to remain to continue monitoring “cessation of hostilities” and support fight against “terrorists”.  Putin 17 March said Russia could increase military presence “within a few hours” if needed. Despite regular breaches in “cessation of hostilities” which began 27 Feb, violence decreased considerably, with Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) 28 March reporting lowest monthly death toll in four years, 174 civilians killed since 27 Feb. Ceasefire violations included clashes between rebels and Kurdish paramilitaries in Aleppo early March; Russian or Syrian airstrike 7 March killed at least nineteen at market in opposition-held Idlib province; SOHR said 33 killed, mostly women and children, reportedly by Syrian regime airstrikes 31 March in opposition stronghold Deir al-Asafir district south east of Damascus. UN-brokered talks resumed 14 March in Geneva: opposition spokesman 15 March said opposition “not against” direct talks with govt; govt delegation 21 March reiterated Assad’s future not part of negotiations. Decrease in violence enabled return of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations in rebel-held areas. Cessation of hostilities and civilian protests increased tensions between Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and rebels; JN 12 March apprehended and raided U.S. and Turkey-backed faction in Idlib province, sparking days of local anti-JN protests. Kurdish YPG/PYD 16 March announced plan for federal region in N Syria, generating widespread criticism from both regime and opposition and leading to limited clashes between YPG and regime forces in Qamishli 16 March. Attacks against Islamic State (IS) and JN, excluded from truce, continued including six U.S.-led coalition airstrikes near three cities destroying IS positions. Regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes recaptured IS-held city Palmyra 27 March.

Syria

  |  1 Mar 2016

Unchanged

U.S. and Russian-brokered “cessation of hostilities” took effect 27 Feb, allowing UN to increase aid deliveries to some of estimated 1.7mn people living in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. Truce allows for continued attacks against Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, and both regime and opposition complained of breaches; nevertheless, in first two days violence diminished in much of country. Prior to truce, Russia dramatically intensified airstrikes on areas held by anti-IS opposition in and around Aleppo 2 Feb, prompting opposition representatives to decide against joining proximity talks with regime; UN envoy Staffan de Mistura 3 Feb announced talks on hold. Backed by Russian bombing, pro-regime ground force composed of Syrian army and allied militiamen, Shiite foreign fighters and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard quickly gained ground in Aleppo’s outskirts. Kurdish YPG, also benefitting from Russian support, also attacked rebels N of Aleppo and made significant gains near Turkish border; Turkey responded with artillery strikes on YPG positions. Despite increased Turkish support to its opposition allies, anti-IS rebels’ position in region looking significantly weakened. Pro-regime airstrikes and advances around Aleppo prompted tens of thousands of civilians to flee to Turkish border. IS claimed responsibility for attacks including 21 Feb car bomb attacks in Homs and southern Damascus killing at least 140. International donors 4 Feb pledged over $10bn to support Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Syria

  |  1 Feb 2016

Unchanged

UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva between Assad regime and opposition, scheduled for 25 Jan, delayed until 29 Jan amid dispute over composition of delegations. Main opposition negotiating body 22 Jan refused to attend talks unless Assad regime implements UNSC resolution calling for full humanitarian access to besieged areas and end to attacks targeting civilians; as of 31 Jan, opposition delegation present in Geneva, but insisting it would limit participation until humanitarian demands met. Prospects for credible negotiations decreased following escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran early Jan (see Iran). Assad regime and allied forces campaign gained momentum, making progress against anti-Islamic State (IS) rebels south of Aleppo and in Daraa; seized rebel-held towns of Salma 12 Jan, most significant rebel holding in coastal mountains, and Rabiya 24 Jan in Latakia province. Clashes between IS and govt forces over eastern city Deir al-Zour continued. IS bomb attack 26 Jan killed at least 24 in govt-controlled Homs; IS-claimed suicide attack in Damascus 31 Jan killed over 70. Having taken Tishreen dam 30 Dec with U.S. support, Kurdish YPG approaching Menbaj, major IS-held town east of Aleppo. Assad regime and Hizbollah 7 Jan agreed to allow small shipment of humanitarian aid to starving residents of besieged town Madaya near Lebanese border, part of deal that also sent aid to two Idlib towns besieged by rebels.

Syria

  |  4 Jan 2016

Unchanged
Russia expanded airstrikes targeting areas held by anti-Islamic State (IS) rebels allied with Turkey in northern Syria, part of multi-front offensive by the Assad regime and its foreign backers; attacks generating devastating civilian casualties, including scores reported killed in Russian airstrike on Idlib 20 Dec. Long-awaited opposition conference in Saudi Arabia, 8-10 Dec, generated minor breakthrough toward more coherent rebel representation, with unprecedented range of armed and political factions in attendance. Syrian ex-PM Riad Hijab elected opposition negotiator; joint statement outlined commitment to pluralistic Syrian future without President Assad and conditional willingness to engage in political process outlined in Vienna 11-14 Nov. Meeting between opposition and govt tentatively scheduled late Jan; Assad 11 Dec declared he would not negotiate with armed groups. UNSC 19 Dec unanimously approved resolution endorsing international roadmap for peace process. Govt and rebels 2 Dec reached local truce in Homs neighbourhood al-Waer, following two years of siege. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes 6 Dec killed at least 32 IS fighters in Raqqa province, days after Germany and Britain agreed to join anti-IS campaign early Dec; NATO 7 Dec ruled out sending ground troops. IS attacks continued including at least 50 killed in Kurdish YPG-controlled town Tel Tamer 11 Dec; at least sixteen killed in govt-controlled Homs 12 Dec.

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2015

Deteriorated
New escalation in conflict after Turkey shot down Russian warplane near its border with Syria (see Turkey). In response, Moscow announced unilateral economic sanctions and stepped up airstrikes along Syrian side of Turkish border, including for first time strikes in support of Kurdish YPG operations against pro-Turkey, anti-Islamic State (IS) rebels north of Aleppo. FMs representing Syrian war’s key external players including Iran gathered in Vienna 11-14 Nov, following first round 30 Oct; talks represent most serious diplomatic engagement on Syrian conflict since failed “Geneva II” talks early 2014, concluded with joint agreement on basic contours of hoped-for political process: negotiations between regime and opposition as early as Jan 2016; followed by process to “establish credible, inclusive and non-sectarian governance” within six months; nationwide ceasefire (excluding IS and Jabhat al-Nusra); within eighteen months, agreement on new constitution followed by UN-monitored elections, with all Syrians entitled to vote. Disagreement between Washington and Moscow continued over whether transition will end President Assad’s rule. Responding to 13 Nov Paris attacks claimed by IS (see France), France 15 Nov intensified airstrikes on IS stronghold Raqqa, deployed aircraft carrier to Gulf; Russian President Putin 17 Nov ordered Russian army to coordinate with French military as “allies” on joint action plan. UNSC 20 Nov adopted resolution, drafted by France, calling on countries around world to take “all necessary measures” to fight IS. Russia continued its military escalation, deploying jets and launching cruise missiles simultaneously against rebels on multiple fronts. Initial regime gains in some areas matched by setbacks elsewhere: regime and allied forces progressed against assortment of non-IS rebels and IS south and SE of Aleppo respectively; in Hama, array of mainstream and jihadi groups 6 Nov thwarted regime offensives and gained ground. Regime continued barrel bombing and other aerial collective punishment tactics, biggest killer of civilians, despite Russian claims to contrary.

Syria

  |  2 Nov 2015

Unchanged
Multinational pro-Assad regime camp continued major, multifront offensive initiated by Russian airstrikes 30 Sept; 7 Oct major escalation in ground operations backed by Russian strikes began including forces from Syrian army, Hizbullah, pro-regime Syrian militias, militias composed of Shiite foreign fighters, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Majority of Russian airstrikes and ground operations targeting rebel groups opposed to Islamic State (IS), despite Moscow’s public messaging that intervention focuses on combatting IS. Opening days of offensive focused on areas held by anti-IS rebels in Hama, Idlib, Aleppo and Homs provinces, but also included Russian airstrikes outside Damascus and advances by regime forces in southern Quneitra province. Rebel commanders 12 Oct noted arrival of additional U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles provided to help C.I.A.-vetted insurgent groups battle regime forces. U.S. 9 Oct announced it has abandoned separate $500mn program run by defence department to train and equip Syrian rebels; White House 30 Oct announced deployment of “fewer than 50” special forces personnel to Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG)-controlled areas to assist fight against IS. Amnesty International 13 Oct reported that U.S.-backed Kurdish forces had forcefully displaced thousands of civilians, mostly Arabs, and demolished villages in N Syria since Feb 2015. During first official foreign visit since 2011, Assad met with President Putin in Moscow 21 Oct. 30 Oct FMs from U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and other Western and regional states met in Vienna to discuss Syria; released joint statement avoiding central question of Assad presidency, agreed to meet again mid-Nov.

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2015

Deteriorated

Russia initiated significant increase in its military support for President Assad’s govt, sending marines, fighter jets armed for air-to-air combat, surface-to-air missiles, tanks, attack helicopters and other equipment to expanded airbase near coastal city Latakia; 30 Sept launched first airstrikes in Syria, primarily targeting non-IS rebels including at least one faction reportedly backed covertly by U.S. Speaking at 4 Sept press conference, Putin portrayed move as part of ongoing effort to support Syria govt against “terrorist aggression”. U.S. early Sept initially condemned Russian military build-up, later in month initiated talks between defence ministries in effort to “deconflict”; 28 Sept meeting on sidelines of UNGA between Presidents Obama and Putin yielded no apparent narrowing of gap between them on Syria. Top U.S. general 16 Sept acknowledged $500m U.S. scheme to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight IS had generated only “four or five” fighters operating in Syria. U.S.-led coalition, including France and Australia, 16 Sept announced extended air campaign over eastern Syria targeting Islamic State (IS); France 27 Sept carried out first airstrikes against IS in Deir al-Zour, north-east Syria. Following series of clashes between pro-regime Hizbollah and Jaish al-Fateh rebel coalition, Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and Iranian govt renewed talks, 20 Sept agreed ceasefire in rebel-held Zabadani and Madaya towns near Lebanese border and regime-held Fouaa and Kafraya villages in Idlib province. Most of Syria’s leading non-jihadi rebel groups 15 Sept signed joint statement publicly accepting for the first time 2012 Geneva Communiqué as basis for political process and ultimate transition – though emphasising that Assad and “pillars of his regime” must be excluded. Islamist-led Jaish al-Fateh coalition 9 Sept seized strategic Abu Duhur air base in Idlib province, one of last remaining regime stronghold in Idlib. Rebel rocket and regime airstrikes continued, including at least two dozen civilians reported killed in 21 Sept govt attack on Aleppo. Amid escalating refugee crisis in Europe, EU leaders 23 Sept pledged additional €1bn to support refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2015

Unchanged

UNSC 7 Aug unanimously adopted resolution authorising investigators to identify actors responsible for chemical weapon attacks. Month also saw multiple high-level talks among external actors. Turkey and Iran early Aug facilitated negotiations between Hizbollah and Ahrar al-Sham, producing 12-14 Aug ceasefire in Zabadani town near Lebanese border, and two villages in Idlib province; no consensus on release of prisoners or possible withdrawal of fighters from Zabadani. Turkey FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 24 August announced Turkey and U.S. will launch “comprehensive” air operations against Islamic State (IS) on Turkey-Syria border, providing air cover for mainstream rebels in fight against IS. U.S. train-and-equip initiative faced major setback late July when Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) captured affiliated fighters north of Aleppo. IS 6 Aug captured town of al-Qaryatain in Homs province between Palmyra and Qalamoun mountains; later abducted 230 civilians from al-Qaryatain and late Aug demolished ancient Christian monastery Mar Elian. Reports emerged 23 Aug that IS had destroyed Palmyra’s Baalshamin temple, and late month also destroyed Temple of Bel. Deadly regime airstrikes intensified in rebel-held city Douma near Damascus, including 16 Aug strike on civilian market which killed 80, injured 200.

Syria

  |  3 Aug 2015

Unchanged

Pace of opposition gains continued to slow, attacks continuing without significant gains: 2 July offensive on Aleppo repelled by Syrian army, 100 rebels killed; 24 July attack on Daraa left at least eleven civilians, eighteen regime soldiers and 50 rebels dead. Growing tensions within Islamist-led Jaish al-Fateh coalition amid perception that it failed to provide governance in Idlib province, and failure to implement agreement between its factions to share power, alienating international donors and local civilians. U.S. 7 July acknowledged its program to train and equip opposition fighters to combat IS had trained only 60 individuals. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) continued: two senior IS leaders reported killed in 13 July airstrikes in NE; at least 23, including six civilians, reported dead in 5 July strikes in Raqqa. Following 20 July IS suicide attack in Turkish town near Syrian border in which 32 people killed, Turkish govt 24 July launched airstrikes on three IS positions in Syria, 27 July announced it will work with U.S. to create “IS-free zone” along Turkey-Syria border (see Turkey). Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) 27 July said Turkish tanks shelled Kurdish troops near strategic Kobani town. Kurdish forces 7 July reportedly recaptured at least ten villages seized by IS early month north of Raqqa. Seven including Ahrar al-Sham commander killed in double bombing in Idlib province blamed on IS cell or sympathisers 13 July. Deadly regime air strikes continued, including scores killed in Aleppo, Idlib provinces.

Syria

  |  1 Jul 2015

Unchanged

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and rebel allies, Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) 15 June seized control of Tal Abyad on Turkish border, cutting vital Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) supply lines to its self-proclaimed capital Raqqah. YPG 22 June also captured IS base Liwa 93, north of Raqqah, entered Ein Eissa. Gains give YPG control of continuous territory across N Syria from Kobani to Iraqi border. Progress accompanied by accusations, including from leading rebel factions, of ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs; over 20,000 reportedly fled fighting in Tal Abyad. IS 25 June launched major offensives in Raqqah and al-Hasakah provinces, seized Al-Nashwa district of Hassakeh city reportedly displacing up to 60,000 people; launched renewed attack on Kurdish city Kobani, which it lost to Kurdish forces in Jan. Some 200 civilians reported killed in siege that ended 27 June with IS defeat by YPG and U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. IS attacked Tal Abyad 30 June. Rebel progress continued in south: Southern Front coalition seized Liwa 52 army base in Daraa province 9 June; 11 June stormed Thaaleh military airbase in majority Druze Sweida province; 16-17 June launched offensive against govt forces in Quneitra province near Golan Heights. Rebels halted Sweida offensive 19 June citing concerns over rising sectarian tension, amid opposition from Druze militiamen. Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) commander 10 June killed twenty Druze civilians in Qalb Lawzah, northern Idlib province. Southern Front coalition 25 June launched offensive to capture govt-held areas of Daraa, dozens killed. Govt 24 June confirmed IS blew up two historic Muslim shrines in ancient city Palmyra, followed local media reports that IS had planted mines in Palmyra 20 June. Govt launched heavy airstrikes against residential Palmyra 20-22 June, eleven reported killed. Govt airstrikes continued in Damascus and Idlib province, dozens reportedly killed including in Douma, near Damascus and Janudiah, western Idlib province. Clashes continued in Aleppo province amid near daily rocket fire.

Syria

  |  1 Jun 2015

Unchanged

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) 21 May announced it had seized “full control” of ancient city Palmyra in central Syria; govt forces retreated following clashes with IS outside Palmyra 14 May. Rebels escalated campaign against remaining regime strongholds in Idlib province; coalition of rebel forces including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) captured Mastoumeh village 19 May and Ariha 28 May. Regime counter-offensive launched in Idlib following 25 April rebel victory in Jisr al-Shaghour made little headway. Regime forces 3 May escalated offensive in Ghouta suburbs of Damascus; heavy fighting between rebels and govt forces reported in Maydaa, key supply route into eastern Ghouta. Fierce clashes between IS and regime forces began 6 May in city of Deir az-Zour, eastern Syria. Clashes in Qalamoun border region ongoing (see Lebanon). U.S. special forces 15-16 May mounted raid in eastern Syria near al-Omar oil field, killing IS commander Abu Sayyaf and capturing his wife; dozen militants reportedly killed in raid. U.S. military 3 May denied reports that coalition airstrikes 30 April-1 May killed 52 civilians in Birmahle village, Aleppo province, said those killed were fighters. UN 5 May announced launch of renewed peace talks in Geneva, billed as “low-key consultations” expected to last four-six weeks; 30 armed opposition groups declined invitation to join talks. IS 22 May seized last govt-controlled Iraq-Syria border crossing al-Tanf in Homs province.

Syria

  |  30 Apr 2015

Unchanged

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) 1 April captured large areas of Yarmouk camp in southern Damascus in cooperation with al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN). Regime responded with military campaign against IS including aerial bombings 8 April; IS reportedly withdrew from much of camp by 14 April, leaving JN as main rebel force in Yarmouk. Rebels continued expansion in south Daraa province after late-March gains in Busra al-sham; Southern Front rebels 2 April captured Nasib border crossing at Syria-Jordan border. Tension erupted between rebel groups as JN attempted to establish presence at Nasib; Southern Front 15 April announced they will not cooperate militarily with JN, publicly disassociating themselves from group. Coalition of rebel forces consolidated control in Idlib province, NW Syria, after late-March capture of provincial capital; 25 April seized control of Jisr al-Shughour as campaign to capture remaining regime holdings in province continued. JN confirmed death of local commander in Marea, in 7 April car bombing in N Aleppo, reportedly attributed to IS. Local media 10 April reported IS holding 50 civilian hostages following 31 March raid on Mabujeh village, Hama province. Clashes in Qalamoun region ongoing; 30 rebels and twelve IS fighters reported killed 21-22 April. Rebels including JN attacked govt intelligence centre in Aleppo 13-14 April; thirteen militants reported killed, twenty regime forces killed/wounded. Deadly regime shelling continued including 16, 22 April strikes in areas around Damascus. 6 April Russia-facilitated talks between Syrian govt representatives and low-profile opposition figures ended without notable result. Israel reportedly carried out raids in Qalamoun, including on Hizbollah arms convoy 22 April (see Lebanon), missile depot 23 April.

Syria

  |  1 Apr 2015

Unchanged

As country entered fifth year of conflict, ongoing offensives by regime and allied forces against rebels yielding mixed results. Regime campaign backed by Hizbollah and Iran aiming to reverse months of rebel gains in south slowed, but pro-regime forces maintain control of newly-gained territory SW of Damascus. Offensive on rebel-held areas north of Aleppo continued: regime forces suffered heavy casualties, dozens of fighters captured; lost most of the ground seized in 16 Feb attack. Following relative success against regime, rebel confidence in Aleppo further boosted by signs of weakness among Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) forces east of city, following string of IS losses in Kurdish areas surrounding Kobani at hands of Turkish Armed Forces (PYD) and rebels. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against IS also continued: five airstrikes hit IS positions in Kobani and Raqqah 25-26 March. Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) continued expansion west of Aleppo, following capture late-Feb of last-remaining stronghold of Western-backed rebel group Haraket Hazm, which disbanded itself 1 March after JN defeat and issued statement suggesting remaining members will join Levant Front, leading alliance of non-jihadi rebels in Aleppo. Hazm’s defeat leaves U.S. without clear partner in northern Syria. Amid continued efforts to broker “freeze” of Aleppo fighting, rebels reiterated refusal to work with UN Syria Envoy de Mistura. Coalition of rebels 24 March launched major offensive to capture NW city of Idlib from govt; succeeded in doing so within five days. Rebels 25 March captured historic town Busra al-Sham in Daraa province, south.

Syria

  |  2 Mar 2015

Deteriorated

Regime and allied forces early Feb began major campaign in south following months of rebel gains in Daraa and Quneitra provinces: retook some ground from rebels including areas south-west of Damascus, scores reported killed by mid-month; pro-regime media reported direct Iranian, Hizbollah participation, signalling apparent major escalation by non-Syrian pro-regime forces in south. Regime and allied forces 16 Feb launched attack on rebel-held areas north of Aleppo and inside city: captured some ground but suffered heavy casualties; hundreds of rebels and pro-regime forces reported killed. UN Syria Envoy de Mistura 17 Feb briefed UNSC on efforts to broker “freeze” of Aleppo fighting: said regime indicated willingness to halt aerial bombardments for six weeks while pursuing agreement on “freeze” in part of Aleppo. Announcement made without rebel agreement to halt fighting; rebel scepticism of UN efforts increased following de Mistura’s 13 Feb statement that Bashar Assad is “part of the solution”, later clarified to mean Assad needed for “de-escalation of violence”. Kurdish forces and allied rebels continued advancing following late Jan victory over Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) in Kobani: seized several mostly Kurdish towns south of city, late Feb seized north-eastern town Tel Hamis. IS late Feb reportedly abducted over 200 Christian villagers in north east. Deadly regime airstrikes continued including scores killed around Damascus 5 Feb following rebel shelling of regime-held areas. U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against IS continued; at least 30 reported killed in Raqqah province 6 Feb.

Syria

  |  2 Feb 2015

Unchanged

Early-Jan winter storm slowed military activity but added to hardships endured by millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance: UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced winter response plan underfunded by $70mn; World Food Program said $112mn urgently needed to cover food assistance for coming four months. Military activity increased as storm subsided: al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) launched offensive to capture sole remaining regime base in south-eastern Idlib countryside, Abu al-Duhr airbase; 13 Jan captured neighbouring Tal Salmo town from regime forces, 18 Jan claimed downing of regime cargo plane killing 35. Kurdish forces late month pushed Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) forces out of Kobani amid continued U.S.-led airstrikes. At least eighteen reported killed in rare clashes between regime and Kurdish forces controlling separate parts of Hasakeh city 17-18 Jan. Deadly regime airstrikes continued including scores killed in IS-held area of Hasakeh province 20 Jan, scores more in rebel-held area near Damascus 23 Jan. Russia failed to convince significant opposition figures to attend late Jan talks with regime representatives in Moscow; Damascus signalled lack of interest by lowering level of representation at talks.

Syria

  |  5 Jan 2015

Unchanged

Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) continued to advance in Idlib province following Nov expulsion of forces loyal to U.S. and Saudi-backed rebel commander Jamal Marouf from stronghold in Jabal al-Zawiya region: most recipients of U.S. support either evicted from province, disarmed, subordinated to JN or forced to seek protection from Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham (AS) by early Dec; U.S. cut support to groups in Idlib and neighbouring Hama province as JN advance left remaining U.S. allies unable to guarantee safety of supply lines. JN, AS mid-month captured two regime bases in southern Idlib after over eighteen months of attempts by U.S.-backed rebels; around 180 killed according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) NGO. Former recipients of U.S. support joined Idlib operation, resulting in U.S.-supplied arms being employed under JN leadership. Mainstream rebel alliance “Revolutionary Command Council” (RCC), covering broad array of rebel factions including U.S.-backed groups and AS, took further steps toward forming representative umbrella organisation; RCC president Qais Abdullah Sheikh early Dec met UN Syria envoy De Mistura in Turkey along with other rebel leaders following late Nov RCC election. Clashes between regime, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) continued: scores reported killed in IS attacks on military base in Deir az-Zour province. Mass grave reportedly discovered in east mid-month containing hundreds of members of Sheitat tribe, executed by IS. Deadly regime airstrikes continued including scores reported killed around Homs city 17 Dec.

Syria

  |  1 Dec 2014

Unchanged

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura early Nov launched initiative to establish “freeze” in battle between regime and opposition in Aleppo. Observers predicted low chance of success: regime described as lacking incentives for deal, seeing status quo as beneficial; initiative criticised by opposition, citing tendency of past local ceasefires to benefit regime by cementing military victories, freeing up resources for advances on other fronts. Syrian FM Moallem 27 Nov claimed govt, Russia, both supporting proposal. Deadly regime airstrikes continued in Aleppo city, including at least twenty civilians reported killed in rebel-held areas 6 Nov; at least 21 reported killed in town held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) north east of city 9 Nov. Al-Qaeda (AQ)-linked Jabhat al-Nusra advanced in fight against other rebels, including Western-backed Syrian Revolutionary Front: early month reportedly captured several towns and villages in Idlib province, including Deir Sinbel and Khan al-Subul 1-2 Nov. Rebels continued advancing in south; observers described strategic impact as limited in absence of U.S. decision to increase cross-border flow of arms from Jordan. U.S.-led airstrikes targeting IS and AQ-linked militants continued: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights NGO 22 Nov said 910 killed, including 52 civilians, in coalition airstrikes since beginning of campaign late Sept; at least 50 militants reported killed in clashes, airstrikes in Kurdish city of Kobani 29-30 Nov. Almost 100 reported killed in regime airstrikes on IS-held Raqqah city 25 Nov.

Syria

  |  1 Nov 2014

Unchanged

U.S.-led airstrikes expanded despite continued lack of coherent strategy; over 500 jihadis, dozens of civilians reported killed since late Sept. U.S. mid-month increased air support for Kurdish forces, anti-regime rebels defending Kurdish city of Kobani after media uproar over attempts by Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL) militants to capture city; U.S. failed to strike IS fighters heading to Kobani in preceding days, downplayed battle’s importance. U.S. escalated pressure on Turkey to increase cooperation with anti-IS coalition; Turkey resisted, citing need for U.S. to address continued rule of President Assad. Turkey renewed calls for no-fly zone in northern Syria, blocked fighters and weapons from crossing border to assist Kurdish forces in Kobani before allowing up to 200 Kurdish peshmerga fighters equipped with heavy weapons to travel from northern Iraq to Kobani late month. U.S. commitment of resources toward moderate rebels remained limited despite rhetoric; rebels complained of inability to launch offensives against IS without increased U.S. support for fight against regime. Regime bombardment of anti-IS rebels continued in support of advances in Aleppo and Damascus suburbs; dozens reported killed in bombing of IDP camp in Idlib province 29 Oct. Regime 23 Oct recaptured central town of Morek in Hama province. Clashes between regime and IS fighters continued including scores reported killed in IS attack on regime-held gas field east of Homs 28 Oct. More than 40 children reported killed in twin suicide bombings targeting primary school in regime-controlled Homs city 1 Oct.

Syria

  |  1 Oct 2014

Deteriorated Risk Alert

U.S. late month began airstrikes against Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL) militants and fighters linked to al-Qaeda (AQ) central leadership and AQ affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) inside Syria: dozens of IS fighters reported killed in Raqqah and Deir az-Zour provinces starting 23 Sept; Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE participated in or provided support for operation. Scores reported killed in U.S. strikes targeting AQ-linked fighters in northern Aleppo and Idlib provinces; JN threatened retaliation. Observers expressed fears intervention risks strengthening IS, alienating other rebel groups; IS continued gaining ground, mid-month seized dozens of towns around predominantly Kurdish city Kobani near Turkish border; at least 160,000 Kurds fled, initially refused entry into Turkey sparking protests and clashes inside Turkey. Most of senior leadership of influential Ahrar as-Sham group among dozens killed in unexplained bomb blast in Idlib province 9 Sept; dead included group’s leader Hassan Aboud also acting as political chief of major rebel alliance Islamic Front; deaths seen as heavy blow to mainstream armed opposition. Regime mid-month revealed previously undeclared chemical facilities to Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirming suspicions about earlier declarations, fuelling concerns toxic material could be seized by IS. Deadly regime airstrikes on rebel held areas continued including 25 reported killed in IS-held Raqqah city 6 Sept; at least 48 reported killed in Talbiseh north of Homs 16-17 Sept.

Syria

  |  1 Sep 2014

Deteriorated

Situation continued to worsen for northern armed opposition: regime advance continued in Aleppo, jihadi Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL or ISIS) gained north of city including capturing series of towns; Aleppo’s rebels expressed fears of impending defeat: regime pushing to encircle rebels inside city, IS fighting to recapture additional territory in northern countryside and push further west. Hostilities between regime and IS intensified: regime continued air strikes on IS-held territory near Aleppo and further east, including dozens reported killed in Raqqah city mid-month; IS 8 Aug reportedly captured army base in Raqqah province, scores killed; hundreds reported killed, including in IS mass executions, after several days of fighting concluding in IS capture of Taqba air base, last regime stronghold in Raqqah province, 24 Aug. IS early to mid-month reportedly executed 700 members of al-Sheitat tribe in Deir al-Zour province in response to local uprising against IS rule. Tensions between al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and former rebel allies continued in Idlib province; local JN chief reportedly assassinated 2 Aug. Regime and allied forces continued campaign around Damascus, scores reported killed in air strikes: mid-month seized most of Mleiha town in eastern suburbs after months-long battle; area seen as strategic entry-point to eastern Ghouta, most significant remaining rebel stronghold in greater Damascus. U.S. late month reportedly started surveillance flights following military intervention against IS in Iraq (see Iraq).

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.

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