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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.

Lebanon

  |  2 May 2016

Unchanged
Heightened fears of major escalation of fighting in largest Palestinian refugee camp Aïn el-Helweh following assassination of senior Fatah security official in car bomb attack in Saida 12 April. Month saw series of clashes between Fatah and radical Islamists in Aïn el-Helweh; Fatah member killed in gunfire 1 April. Efforts of Palestinian groups to contain deteriorating situation challenged by internal rivalries including within Fatah, radicalism stoked by al-Qaeda and Islamic State, financial pressures on UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and Palestinian refugees’ longstanding grievances. Court 8 April re-sentenced former Information Minister Michel Samaha, arrested in 2012 on terror charges and released on bail in Jan, to thirteen years’ prison; retrial followed Samaha’s original shorter sentence handed down by military tribunal May 2015 after he confessed to transporting explosives. Parliament again failed to elect new president 18 April due to lack of quorum. Army reportedly killed leader of Islamic State in Arsal 28 April.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Apr 2016

Unchanged
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries took several measures against Lebanon and Hizbollah following Saudi Arabia’s Feb suspension of $3bn in military aid, reportedly due to Lebanon’s failure to condemn Jan attack on Saudi embassy in Iran and “hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hizbollah on the State”. GCC 2 March designated Hizbollah a terrorist organisation; Saudi interior ministry 13 March warned of “severe penalties” for anyone linked to Hizbollah; throughout month GCC countries expelled dozens of Lebanese citizens over alleged Hizbollah ties. Hizbollah 3 March condemned GCC’s terrorist label, blamed Saudi Arabia. Arab League 11 March declared Hizbollah a terrorist group. U.S. officials 8 March warned Saudi Arabia against further economic measures against Lebanon. Parliament failed again to elect new president 2 and 23 March due to lack of quorum; UNSC 17 March urged parties to put country’s stability and national interests before partisan politics. Army clashed with suspected militants 10 March near Syrian border, one soldier and eight gunmen killed. Removal of garbage from Beirut suburbs began 19 March, after govt 12 March approved emergency plan to temporarily reopen Naameh landfill. Minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi resigned 21 Feb, accusing Hizbollah of obstructing cabinet’s functioning, offending Saudi Arabia and intervening for release of former minister Michel Samaha, who was released on bail in Jan after being convicted on terror charges.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Mar 2016

Unchanged

During raid in Arsal near Syrian border, army 3 Feb killed six gunmen and arrested sixteen suspected militants including Islamic State (IS) commander. Hizbollah 2 Feb reportedly killed at least four al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) members in rocket attack outside Arsal. Hizbollah-affiliated media 8 Feb said IS and JN militants clashed on NE border with Syria. Parliament again failed to elect new president 8 Feb due to lack of quorum, despite Jan breakthrough in presidential race with Christian Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea’s withdrawal of candidacy and endorsement of Free Patriotic Movement’s Michel Aoun. Former PM and Future Current movement leader Saad Hariri 15 Feb said he remained committed to backing Marada Movement leader Suleiman Frangieh. Saudi Arabia 19 Feb suspended $3bn in military aid (granted in 2013), reportedly over Lebanon’s failure to condemn Jan attack on Saudi embassy in Iran; 23 Feb urged citizens to leave Lebanon. Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk 25 Feb said regular Future-Hezbollah meetings should be suspended. Court 18 Feb indicted fourteen on terrorism charges, including JN commander. Garbage crisis, which began July 2015, continues.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Feb 2016

Unchanged

Leader Lebanese Forces party Samir Geagea 18 Jan backed rival General Michel Aoun, leader of Christian Free Patriotic Movement, for presidency, now vacant for over twenty months, in move to resolve political crisis. Parliament failed to elect new president again 7 Jan due to lack of quorum. Hizbollah 4 Jan detonated explosive device targeting Israeli army patrol in disputed Shebaa Farms area following alleged Israeli assassination of prominent militant Samir Kuntar late Dec; Israel retaliated with shelling. Authorities 14 Jan released on bail former Information Minister Michel Samaha, arrested Aug 2012 on terrorism charges. Former PM and Future Current leader Saad Hariri criticised release; protesters blocked roads in Beirut. Security forces 14 Jan reportedly arrested senior member of al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigade in anti-terrorist operation in Beirut. Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra clashed in Arsal late Jan.

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.

Lebanon

  |  4 Jan 2016

Unchanged

Amid ongoing political stalemate, former PM and Future Current (FC) leader Saad Hariri 3 Dec backed initiative supporting contested candidacy of Marada Movement leader Suleiman Frangieh, friend of Syrian President Assad and member of rival March 8 coalition, in move straining FC’s ties with Christian allies and with Lebanese Forces. Parliament failed to elect new president again 3 Dec and 16 Dec due to lack of quorum. Govt 21 Dec agreed to export country’s waste in move that could end garbage crisis, which began mid-July. Army and Hizbollah continued offensive against militants along NE border with Syria: Hizbollah 9 Dec reportedly killed al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) commander and eight fighters following attack on convoy; army and Hizbollah 15 Dec reportedly killed five Islamic State (IS) fighters; army 17 Dec reportedly killed three militants. JN 1 Dec released sixteen soldiers and police, held since Aug 2014, under Qatari-mediated deal, in exchange for release of thirteen Islamist-leaning prisoners in Lebanon and Syria; IS continued to hold nine hostages. Suicide blast 5 Dec reportedly killed three, wounded several soldiers during army raid in northern city Tripoli. U.S. 11 Dec urged citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon due to security concerns. Hizbollah 21 Dec vowed to retaliate for killing of prominent militant Samir Kuntar in alleged Israeli airstrike inside Syria 19 Dec (see Israel).

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Dec 2015

Deteriorated

At least 40 people killed, over 200 injured in double suicide bomb attack 12 Nov in predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Bourj al-Barajneh in Beirut’s southern suburb; Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, triggering renewed fears about ability and intent of jihadi groups to expand operations in Lebanon, and for many observers highlighting limitations of govt’s “security plan”; security forces arrested at least sixteen suspects. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri 11 Nov again postponed election of president due to lack of quorum. Anti-govt protests in Beirut over ongoing trash collection crisis continued. Parliament approved a number of draft laws during rare session 12-13 Nov following informal agreements among main political parties on mainly financial issues. Two soldiers and six alleged fugitives killed during anti-drug raid in Jounieh 2 Nov. Suicide bomber 5 Nov killed at least six Syrian clerics in NE town Arsal.

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.

Lebanon

  |  2 Nov 2015

Unchanged

Anti-govt protests in Beirut over ongoing trash collection crisis continued; dozens injured as security forces fired tear gas and water cannons during protests in Beirut 8 Oct; at least 50 protestors detained for vandalism and assaulting policemen, several appeared before military court. Govt plan to address worsening waste crisis facing ongoing obstacles including objections of residents living close to proposed landfill sites. Further “National Dialogue” session aimed at finding solutions to political stalemate began 6 Oct. Thousands of supporters of General Michel Aoun, leader of Christian Free Patriotic Movement and candidate for presidency, rallied outside presidential palace 11 Oct. Parliament 21 Oct again failed to elect new president due to lack of quorum. As spillover from Syria conflict continued, five soldiers reportedly wounded in militant strike in eastern border village Ras Baalbek 7 Oct; several militants reportedly killed, many wounded in military strike in NE town Arsal 11 Oct. Security forces 12 Oct reportedly arrested senior al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) militant in Arsal; 22 Oct announced arrest of top IS leader and several suspected militants in Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Oct 2015

Unchanged

Protests in Beirut over garbage crisis, which began mid-July, continued throughout month: 1 Sept sit-in in environment minister’s office demanding his resignation violently dispersed by police; at least 30 detained and several injured as police clashed with protesters 16 Sept; thousands rallied 20 Sept. At emergency meeting 9 Sept govt decided to give local municipalities authority to treat waste. MPs and ministers met for “National Dialogue” same day to discuss ongoing political crisis and deadlock over presidency; no agreement reached at this or subsequent sessions. Parliament 2 Sept again failed to elect new president, and again 30 Sept due to lack of quorum; vote postponed to 21 Oct. Security forces 22 Sept reported arrest of Syrian citizen suspected of involvement in Nov 2013 bombing of Iranian embassy in Beirut.

Lebanon

  |  1 Sep 2015

Deteriorated

Amid growing discontent over political paralysis and Beirut garbage crisis which began mid-July, peaceful protests began early Aug, turning violent by late month. Responding to mass demonstrations that erupted in Beirut 22 Aug, riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons on demonstrators; dozens of protestors and police wounded. Some demonstrators called for resignation of environment and interior ministers, others for government and parliament to resign. PM Salam 23 Aug announced security forces would be held accountable for violence against protestors, called emergency govt session 27 Aug over ongoing political stalemate; cabinet selected winning bidders for new waste collection contracts but cancelled them next day, invoking excessively high rates. Renewed demonstrations against corruption and political dysfunction 29 Aug rallied more than 10,000 protestors. Violent clashes erupted 24 Aug between Fatah and Jund al-Sham in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp amid escalating rivalries between groups; three reported killed, several wounded. Supporters of Free Patriotic Movement 12 Aug rallied against perceived marginalisation of Christian rights and extension of terms of top army commanders.

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.

Lebanon

  |  3 Aug 2015

Unchanged

Internal political stalemate endures amid rising tensions between March 8 coalition and March 14 coalition. 9 July cabinet session witnessed heated argument between PM Salam and Aounist FM Gebran Bassil, latter accusing PM of violating constitution, encroaching on prerogatives of president. General Michel Aoun, leader of Christian Free Patriotic Movement, called rally 9 July in attempt to press for his election to presidency and appointment of his son-in-law as head of army, but turnout low. Several wounded in clashes between supporters of Sunni Future Movement and Hizbollah-linked Resistance Brigades south of Beirut 1 July. Videos leaked from Roumieh prison showed security officers beating and humiliating Sunni Islamist inmates, feeding into growing sense of persecution among families and sympathisers, and raising concerns about effectiveness of govt’s policy toward extremism. Hizbollah and Syrian army continued offensives against Syrian militants in Zabadani, key militant stronghold along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, part of wider operation seeking to wrest control of Qalamoun region from Syrian militants (see Syria).

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Jul 2015

Unchanged

Hizbollah and Syrian army continued offensive against rebels along Lebanon’s NE border with Syria, with some success despite growing casualties. Hizbollah 8 June seized several strategic border crossings linking Lebanese town Arsal to Syrian village Flita; 9 June repelled pre-emptive Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) attack near Ras Baalbek, in clash which saw eight Hizbollah fighters and fourteen IS militants killed; 12 June captured Qirnet Shaab al-Nasoub, Qirnet Abu Harb and Qirnet Semaan, near Jarajeer, held by Assad regime. Free Patriotic Movement leader Michael Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea signed “declaration of intent” on filling position of president, now vacant for over a year, but rare meeting 2 June did not yield significant breakthrough. Hizbollah 8 June stated March 14 coalition must elect Aoun as president or face “indefinite” presidential vacuum.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Jun 2015

Unchanged

Clashes on NE border with Syria intensified with Hizbollah and Syrian army making major gains against Syrian rebels in Qalamoun mountain range, including taking highest peak in Qalamoun near Tallit Moussa hilltop 13 May, 14-15 May seizing strategic hill overlooking Damascus-Homs highway, consolidating control over entire Jabal al-Barouh mountain range. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 5 May stated that Lebanon cannot protect its eastern borders from terror threat, Hizbollah taking responsibility to secure region. Impact of fighting evident in adjacent areas in Bekaa Valley, where military deployments are widespread and sectarian tensions palpable. Amid ongoing parliamentary divisions, PM Salam 5 May warned political stalemate harming economic growth. Former Information Minister Michel Samaha, arrested 2012 on terror charges, sentenced 13 May to four and a half “judicial years” in prison for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon.

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.

Lebanon

  |  30 Apr 2015

Unchanged

Clashes between Hizbollah and Syrian rebels continued along Lebanon-Syria border as parties reportedly preparing for offensive in Qalamoun mountain range: Hizbollah 3 April reportedly destroyed Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) base in area of Khachaat; rebels 12-13 April seized strategic hill near Flita village close to border. During raid in northern city Tripoli, police 9 April shot dead Islamist militants Osama Mansour and Ahmad Nazer, arrested extremist cleric Sheik Khaled Hoblos; Mansour believed to have links to Jabhat al-Nusra, had been sentenced to death in absentia over 2014 attacks in Tripoli. Hizbollah and Future Current continued renewed political dialogue despite public disagreements over Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen. Following 2013 Saudi-funded arms deal, Army 20 April received first delivery of French weapons to help fight against terrorism. Army 7 April clashed with militants near eastern border village Ras Baalbek; three militants reported killed. Israeli Air Force 22 April reportedly raided Hizbollah weapons convoy along Syrian-Lebanese border.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Apr 2015

Unchanged

Amid ongoing fight against Syrian militants along Lebanon’s north-eastern borders, regional and international powers stepped up scale and pace of assistance to Lebanon’s military, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S., France, Russia. Observers emphasise need to reach out to Syrian refugees and Sunnis alienated by military’s heavy-handed campaign against extremists. Parliament 11 March failed to elect president for 20th consecutive time, after ten months without head of state; political factions remain divided over conflict in Syria. Despite divisions and ongoing stalemate, cabinet maintained semblance of stability amid mounting security threats. Hizbollah and Future Current continued new dialogue after hiatus of more than three years, reportedly to defuse Sunni-Shiite tensions, including talks 18 March Lebanese army involved in clash near Syrian border 27 March; seven suspects reportedly attempted illegal entry into Lebanese territory, one reported killed, two arrested.

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.

Lebanon

  |  2 Mar 2015

Unchanged

Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah 16 Feb admitted group has “limited presence” in Iraq, said Hizbollah role still “in its earliest stages” raising suspicions over possible preparations for deeper engagement. Authorities mid-Feb allegedly foiled assassination attempt against former Information Minister Michel Samaha, detained since Aug 2012 for plotting bomb attacks in Lebanon in coordination with Syrian officials; plot reportedly organised by Samaha’s former allies.

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.

Lebanon

  |  2 Feb 2015

Deteriorated

Israel 18 Jan killed six Hizbollah members and Iranian Revolutionary Guard General in airstrike on convoy in Golan Heights; Hizbollah 28 Jan retaliated killing two Israeli soldiers across Israel-Lebanon border, with UN peacekeeper killed as Israel returned fire; both parties said they intend to avoid further escalation. Renewed Sunni-Alawite tensions in Tripoli following 11 Jan twin suicide bombing at cafe in predominantly Alawite area, killing nine; claimed by al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. Army responded by raiding Roumieh prison; Islamist inmates purportedly connected to attack, able to communicate with outside accomplices due to chaotic prison conditions. Army 23 Jan clashed with militants near eastern border village Ras Baalbek; eight soldiers, dozens of militants reported killed.

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.

Lebanon

  |  5 Jan 2015

Unchanged

Syria-based jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) 5 Dec executed Lebanese policeman, held captive since Aug, in response to army’s arrest of wife and children of JN commander Abu Ali al-Shishani, ex-wife and children of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIL) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; 26 Lebanese servicemen remain in JN or IS captivity. Govt failure to manage hostage crisis resulted in civilians resorting to vigilantism following execution: blocked eastern roads, encircled border town Arsal; retaliations against Syrian refugees escalated including Syrian boy shot dead 7 Dec, refugee camp torched. Militants 2 Dec killed six soldiers near Syrian border; army shelled militant positions in area, arrested at least ten. Three militants reported killed by army near Arsal 26 Dec, including Syrian JN member.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Dec 2014

Unchanged

Sectarian tensions continued following late Oct clashes between Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), Sunni militants in Tripoli; LAF operation criticised for fuelling Sunni suspicions that army has allied with Hezbollah against Sunnis, due to indiscriminate LAF raids on homes of Sunni Islamists and Syrian refugees, destruction of impoverished Sunni neighbourhoods during fighting. Observers criticised military-based approach for leaving deep-rooted political and socio-economic grievances unaddressed, heightening risks of radicalisation among some Lebanese and Syrian Sunnis. Parliament 5 Nov extended its own mandate to 2017 citing security concerns linked to Syria conflict.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Nov 2014

Deteriorated

Continued fighting between Syrian rebels and Hizbollah, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in north-eastern border areas: Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) attacks on Hizbollah strongholds geographically expanded war of attrition between parties, dozens reported killed 5 Oct in Shiite town of Britel. Clashes between LAF and Sunni militants in Tripoli intensified, including scores reported killed late Oct; fighting expanded to towns in Akkar and Dinniyeh region, LAF carried out raids, arrested tens of alleged “terrorists” in north, Saida and Beirut. Political factions repeatedly declared support for army despite numerous reports of indiscriminate crackdown on Islamist militants and Syrian refugees. Social affairs minister Rashid Derbas 20 Oct warned govt will soon adopt policy halting further refugee inflows from Syria.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Oct 2014

Deteriorated

Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL) militants early month beheaded 2 Lebanese soldiers captured along with 8 others during Aug clashes in eastern border town Arsal; al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) reportedly detained 18 others, 19 Sept executed soldier, demanded release of Sunni Islamist imprisoned in Lebanon and Hizbollah withdrawal from Syria. Executions exacerbated ethnic and communal tensions including sparking attacks on Syrian refugees, tit-for-tat abductions between Sunni and Shiite tribes in Bekaa Valley. Hizbollah sought to use events in Arsal to justify involvement in Syria by playing up jihadi threat, rejected any negotiations with IS, JN. 4 Hizbollah members among several casualties reported after clashes outside border village Ras Baalbek 10 Sept; 3 killed in attack on Hizbollah checkpoint near eastern village Khraibeh 20 Sept. Clashes between army and militants continued: Syrian militant killed 6 Sept in border town Al-Qaa; 2 soldiers killed in roadside bombing in Arsal 19 Sept, military subsequently arrested hundreds in raids. Several reported killed 22 Sept in Syrian regime airstrikes targeting rebels near Arsal. Deadly shootings reported in Tripoli late month including soldier killed by unknown gunmen 23 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).

Lebanon

  |  1 Sep 2014

Deteriorated

Month saw heavy clashes between Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Syrian rebels in border town Arsal, first major Syrian rebel incursion directly challenging LAF: close to 100 soldiers, rebels and civilians reported killed; several soldiers captured by rebels. Fighting sparked by 2 Aug arrest of rebel commander reportedly tied to either al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra or Islamic State (formerly ISIL or ISIS): militants subsequently attacked checkpoints, overran govt and security buildings taking dozens hostage, attempted to take control of parts of Arsal; LAF counteroffensive, aided by Syrian Air Force raids, reclaimed city after 5-day battle. LAF launched series of raids targeting Syrians across country, detained tens of alleged members of extremist groups. Saudi Arabia early month offered $1bn aid to LAF, U.S. later pledged additional arms.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Aug 2014

Unchanged

Army “security plan” continued to hold despite presidential, governmental and parliamentary paralysis: security and intelligence measures intensified including checkpoints, raids of houses, and arrests of dozens of Islamists in Arsal, Tripoli, Saida and other areas. Security officials claimed jihadi networks discovered planning suicide attacks against Lebanese officials and civilians; 28 charged with belonging to jihadi group Islamic State (formerly ISIL, see Iraq) 7 July. Continued clashes between Syrian rebels and pro-Syrian regime fighters in eastern border areas: scores reported killed mid- to late month. Cross-border rocket fire from south into Israel mid-month, Israeli forces retaliated with shelling; no casualties reported.

Lebanon

  |  1 Jul 2014

Unchanged

Successor to former President Michel Sleiman still not elected; ministers unable to agree on mechanism for exercising cabinet’s authorities in power vacuum; March 14 alliance boycotted parliament. Army’s “security plan” continued to hold despite several incidents including: 2 police killed, several injured in 3 suicide bombings in Beirut and Bekaa Valley 20-25 June; 2 Palestinians killed in gunfight near Beirut refugee camp 30 June; unknown gunmen 17 June killed soldier in Tripoli. Expatriate voting in Syria’s presidential elections deepened frictions with segments of Lebanese population; some called for expulsion of Syrians, officials declared “security concerns” cause for revoking refugee status of Syrians travelling back to their country.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Jun 2014

Unchanged

President Suleiman’s term ended 25 May following repeated failure of parliamentarians to elect successor; March 14 coalition threatened boycott of parliament in absence of new president, ministers attended cabinet session 30 May seeking agreement on rules governing presidential vacuum. Army’s “security plan” continued to contain rising levels of violence, several militants arrested or surrendered throughout month. Thousands demonstrated against worsening economic outlook 14 May. Several wounded in clashes between rival Palestinian groups 12 May in refugee camp in Sidon.

Lebanon

  |  1 May 2014

Improved

Army 1 April started implementing “security plan” brokered by political factions to counter worsening violence, particularly in Tripoli and on Syrian border: set up checkpoints and patrols in tense areas, raided homes of militiamen, seized weapons, arrested several suspects. Reports indicated plan successful in calming violence despite some attacks including: gunmen 8 April shot dead 2 soldiers east of Tripoli; 1 killed in NE 2 April by rocket fire from Syria, claimed by Sunni militants targeting Hizbollah. Complaints against security plan as political elites allegedly protected favoured militiamen; some Sunnis demonstrated against army deployments claiming Sunni communities disproportionately targeted. Concerns also raised about fragility of political truce underpinning plan, failure to address deeper problems including socio-economic grievances, sectarian divisions, issues of political representation. At least 8 reported killed 7 April in fighting between rival Palestinian factions in refugee camp near Sidon. UN reported number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passed 1 million.

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.

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