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CrisisWatch Database

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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.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Apr 2014

Unchanged

Continued spillover from Syrian conflict as Syria’s Assad regime intensified fight with Syrian rebels along Lebanese border. Rebel defeat in Syrian town Yabroud 16 March saw refugees and fighters fleeing to Lebanese city Arsal. Hizbollah and local residents blocked roads around city prompting protests, road blockings and tyre burnings by Sunni militants elsewhere in Lebanon. Arsal and other Bekaa Valley areas targeted by Syrian regime airstrikes throughout month. Dozens killed in Tripoli during fighting starting 13 March between supporters of rival parties to Syrian conflict; fighting later spread to Beirut, 1 killed in clashes 23 March. Sunni jihadis continued rocket attacks, car bombings inside Lebanon in retaliation for Hizbollah’s involvement in Syria: 2 killed in suicide bombing in Bekaa Valley 16 March, claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra. 3 soldiers killed 29 March in suicide bombing at army checkpoint in Arsal; 2 civilians killed hours later by soldiers at another checkpoint. Israel held Hizbollah responsible for 14 March bomb targeting Israeli patrol on border, retaliated against group’s positions (see Israel-Palestine). New govt 20 March won confidence vote in parliament.

Lebanon

  |  1 Mar 2014

Unchanged

New govt formed 15 Feb following 10 months of talks; cabinet split equally between Hizbollah-dominated March 8 coalition, rival March 14 coalition, and ministers appointed by President Suleiman. Sunni jihadis continued suicide bombing campaign in retaliation for Hizbollah and Iranian involvement in Syria; Jabhat al-Nusra claimed 1 Feb attack in eastern Hermel which killed 4, and 22 Feb attack in same town killing 3 including 2 soldiers. Abdullah Azzam (AAB) brigades claimed 19 Feb twin attack outside Iranian cultural centre in Beirut killing 8. March 14 coalition head Saad Hariri 15 Feb urged Hizbollah to end involvement in Syria to avoid “sectarian holocaust”. Gunmen 20 Feb killed senior leader of Arab Democratic Party which favours Syria’s President al-Assad in Tripoli. Lebanese army arrested 2 suspected AAB leaders, uncovered booby-trapped cars in Beirut and Arsal near Syrian border. In latest Israeli targeting of Hizbollah weapons shipment, airstrikes 24 Feb hit Hizbollah position near eastern border with Syria, Hizbollah vowed retaliation.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Feb 2014

Deteriorated

Month saw escalation in targeting of Shia neighbourhoods with attacks by radical Sunni groups in retaliation for Hizbollah’s military involvement in Syria. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed car-bombing in S Beirut 2 Jan killing 5; Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) claimed 21 Jan bombing in same neighbourhood killing 4, also 16 Jan bombing in eastern Hermel killing 4, 25 Jan rocket attack jointly with fellow al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), no casualties. Head of AAB died in military custody 4 Jan reportedly of kidney failure. Further clashes in Tripoli between supporters of rival Syrian groups, 5 killed by sniper fire 21 Jan. Rocket fire on Arsal near Syrian border 17 Jan, 7 killed. Amid continued political deadlock over formation of new cabinet, trial over 2005 killing of former PM Rafik Hariri began in The Hague; Hariri’s son Saad Hariri, currently in The Hague attending trial, vowed to return to Lebanon for Nov elections.

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.

Lebanon

  |  2 Jan 2014

Deteriorated

Car bomb in Beirut 27 Dec killed senior “March 14” figure and former finance minister Mohammad Chatah and 7 others: March 14 alliance accused Syrian regime and Hizbollah, both denied. Assassination derailed cabinet formation process: March 14 alliance 28 Dec rejected unity govt, called for cabinet excluding Hizbollah. 13 killed, dozens wounded in sectarian clashes between Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighbourhoods of Tripoli 30 Nov-2 Dec; govt ordered army to preserve security in city. Lebanese troops fired at Syrian military aircraft violating its airspace in Bekaa Valley 30 Dec. Saudi Arabia 29 Dec granted Lebanese army $3bn. President Suleiman 7 Dec again called on Hizbollah to withdraw from Syria, abide by Baabda declaration. Prominent Hizbollah commander Ali Bazzi and 3 militants killed in firefight with Syrian rebels near Nabuk on Syrian Qalamoun front 8 Dec. Gunmen 4 Dec assassinated Hizbollah commander Hassan al-Laqis in Hadath. Armed men and suicide bomber 15 Dec attacked 2 army checkpoints in Sidon, killing 1 soldier; army detained 5 suspects, claimed men part of al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Unidentified militants 29 Dec fired 5 rockets from Hasbaya toward Israel, 2 exploded near Kiryat Shmona; Israel blamed Hizbollah, shelled Rachaya border area in retaliation, no injuries reported. Lebanese sniper 16 Dec killed Israeli soldier on border, army said soldier acted alone (see Israel/Palestine). Residents of Qsar Naba village near Syria 2 Dec torched ad hoc Syrian refugee camp, forced hundreds of refugees from campsite. Authorities arrested head of group that claimed Nov Iranian embassy bombing.

Lebanon

  |  1 Dec 2013

Deteriorated

Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigade claimed 19 Nov suicide bomb outside Iranian embassy in Beirut, aiming to force “Iran’s Hezbollah [to] withdraw from Syria”; 26 killed including Iranian official, 146 injured. Attacks against Alawites continued to multiply in Tripoli, including 2 Nov when Sunni gunmen beat and shot passengers on bus transporting Alawite workers through Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh neighbourhood, wounding 9. Clashes between security forces and gunmen from Bab al-Tebbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighbourhoods 30 Nov left 6 dead, Sectarian tensions inflamed after Internal Security Forces (ISF) 4 Nov issued search warrant for Alawite Arab Democratic Party (ADP) members, including General Secretary Ali Eid, charged with helping suspect in Aug Tripoli bombings escape to Syria. Syrian Army 5 Nov stationed troops near Lebanese border close to Eid’s house, allegedly to deter his arrest; ADP leader Rifaat Eid 4 Nov said arrest could trigger civil war, ISF “legitimate” target. Unidentified gunmen 12 Nov killed pro-Syrian Islamic Labor Front member Saad Ghieh in Tripoli. 12,000 Syrian refugees fled into Beqaa Valley border villages 15-19 Nov to escape new offensive by Syrian govt and Hezbollah along border. Syrian army 14 and 19 Nov fired rockets into Arsal in Beqaa Valley, no injuries reported. Hezbollah involvement in Syrian conflict proving major obstacle in attempts at cabinet formation: Future Bloc (FB) leader MP Fouad Siniora 13 Nov said FB would only accept formation of political cabinet if “Hezbollah returns from Syria” or a technocratic cabinet is formed; Hezbollah chief Nasrallah 14 Nov called withdrawal from Syria “impossible condition”.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Nov 2013

Unchanged

Military court 16 Oct charged 7 members of pro-Syrian President Assad Alawite Arab Democracy Party over 23 Aug bombings of Sunni mosques in Tripoli that killed 47, claimed defendants instructed by Syrian intelligence services. Charges triggered renewed clashes between Tripoli’s Sunni Bab al-Tebbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighbourhoods 16 Oct: violence quickly contained, but reignited 23 Oct after televised interview with Assad, leaving 16 dead, 80 wounded; army deployed to restore order 28 Oct, 1 soldier killed. During interview Assad criticised Lebanese govt for allowing “terrorists” to enter Syria; President Suleiman responded saying Lebanon will continue “disassociation policy” with Syrian conflict. Lebanese Sunni militant Omar Atrash, main suspect in 9 July and 15 Aug Dahiya bombings, killed in ambush in Nehmat, Syria 11 Oct. 8 Syrian rockets hit Lebanese city Hermel in Bekaa valley 21 Oct, 5 rockets hit Wadi Rafi area 22 Oct. Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) 14 Oct issued public arrest warrant for Hassan Merhi, alleged Hizbollah “supporter” and 5th suspect in 2005 assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri. Political deadlock between March 14 and Hizbollah-led March 8 alliance over cabinet formation continued as March 14 rejected March 8 cabinet proposal granting 9 seats to each camp and 6 seats to centrists.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Oct 2013

Unchanged

Army and police deployed in Hizbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut 23 Sept to take over security from Hizbollah militants at checkpoints. Clashes in Tripoli mid-month injured 7, killed 1 amid continued tensions between Alawite and Sunni residents. 5 people killed in clash in Hizbollah stronghold Baalbek in East 28 Sept, security forces deployed to restore calm; followed clash 25 Sept in which several wounded. Several rockets from Syria fell in East mid-Sept wounding 2. European Commission 12 Sept pledged further $77mn to Lebanon to help cope with Syrian refugee influx, now reported to number 759,932 in Lebanon alone. Political deadlock still unresolved: caretaker PM Najib Mikati, MPs from Future Movement and its March 14 allies, and Free Patriotic Movement 23 Sept boycotted parliament session for 5th time, prompting Parliament speaker Berri to postpone it once again.

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.

Lebanon

  |  1 Sep 2013

Deteriorated

Sectarian clashes reignited in Tripoli where gunmen 22 Aug killed 3 including Hizbollah supporter; at least 42 people killed, hundreds wounded 23 Aug in 2 explosions in Tripoli; no claim of responsibility; 5 suspects, including 3 members of pro-Syrian regime party, arrested. Explosion in Hizbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut 15 Aug killed at least 27, biggest bomb since 2005 killing of PM Hariri; small Syrian rebel group claimed responsibility. March 14 coalition blamed Hizbollah’s intervention in Syria for provoking retaliation; Hizbollah leader Nasrallah promised his organisation would double its fighters in Syria with each such attack. Security agencies reportedly uncovered further bombing cells, while Hizbollah set up checkpoints to protect Shia-majority neighbourhoods under its control. Airstrikes from Syria continued; 9 killed, 9 injured in 3 Aug airstrike on Arsal. 4 Israeli soldiers who had crossed border into Lebanon wounded in 7 Aug attack; Hizbollah claimed responsibility. 4 rockets fired from Lebanon into northern Israel 22 Aug causing damage but no casualties; Israel 23 Aug retaliated bombing “terror site” near Na’ameh (see Israel-Palestine). Political deadlock continued as Future Movement continues to insist on “neutral” cabinet while Hizbollah demands “national unity” govt composed of representatives from all sides.

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.

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CrisisWatch N°145

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