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CrisisWatch Syria

Unchanged Situation

Clashes resumed between Kurdish and govt-affiliated forces in north east amid hostilities between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces; Idlib ceasefire largely held and violence continued in south west. In north east, regime-backed militia National Defence Forces 20 April reportedly killed one Kurdish security forces officer in Qamishli city, triggering days-long fighting that killed at least three civilians and several fighters; Russia 25-26 April brokered ceasefire after initial attempt collapsed 22 April. Elsewhere in region, Turkish-backed armed groups and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued fighting in Ain Issa countryside throughout month. Following late March security operation, SDF 2 April said they had arrested 125 suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated individuals in al-Hol camp, which holds over 60,000 displaced persons as well as families of suspected ISIS fighters. In Idlib province in north west, March 2020 ceasefire continued to hold despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month; notably, suspected govt missile attack 8 April reportedly killed seven civilians in al-Najiya area. Jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham 5-16 April reportedly killed two and arrested at least 16 suspected members of al-Qaeda-linked group Hurras al-Din. In Daraa province in south west, following clashes in March between govt forces and former opposition fighters, unidentified gunmen 7-29 April reportedly killed at least 14 soldiers and ten former rebels who had enrolled in govt forces. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected ISIS targets throughout month, reportedly killing some 29 ISIS militants 3-5 April and some 200 militants 16-19 April. Suspected ISIS militants 6 April reportedly killed one civilian and kidnapped at least 19 civilians and govt troops in al-Saan area in Hama province. Israel 8 April reportedly fired missiles and 22 April launched airstrikes on govt targets on outskirts of capital Damascus; errant Syrian anti-aircraft missile 22 April exploded near Dimona nuclear facility in Israel, prompting latter same day to strike Syrian missile batteries. President Assad 21 April said he would run for fourth consecutive term in elections scheduled for 26 May.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

14 Mar 2021
La direction du mouvement [HTC en Syrie] s’efforce désormais de régler ces problèmes. La manière dont elle se comporte vis-à-vis des minorités est en train de changer. Le Monde

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
8 Mar 2021
La meilleure des pires options qui se posent aujourd'hui [en Syrie], c'est une impasse prolongée. AFP

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
26 Feb 2021
The [recent] U.S. [air strikes in Syria were] aimed at a relatively insignificant target in an area where Iran's hands are somewhat tied. AFP

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
5 Oct 2020
The people who have been released [from detention camps in Syria] are struggling to reintegrate, and the economic situation outside is already very bad. The Washington Post

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
4 Sep 2020
It seems that what is left of ISIS networks now is that they are getting organized in smaller groups of five or six people who may not be connected to each other even. New Delhi Times

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey
31 Aug 2020
The Kurdish leadership has every reason to suspect that Russia will not push Damascus to accept anything that Turkey might interpret as protecting or legitimizing the YPG. Kurdistan24

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria

Latest Updates

The SDF Seeks a Path Toward Durable Stability in North East Syria

A sudden U.S. troop pull-out from north east Syria could prompt a humanitarian crisis, an Islamic State resurgence and renewed conflict between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, especially its Kurdish component. The U.S. should commit to an eventual, gradual and conditional withdrawal that protects civilians.

U.S. Sanctions on Syria: What Comes Next?

Sanctions on Syria aim to protect Syrian civilians from the regime but may end up hurting them instead. Washington should further clarify humanitarian exemptions, specify benchmarks related to civilian protection and offer temporary easing of sanctions as long as these are met.

The Fragility of Northern Syria

A full-blown COVID-19 outbreak may trigger a greater human catastrophe in northern Syria, where ISIS activity persists and Idlib’s peace remains ever-fragile. In this excerpt from the Spring Edition of our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to support a stronger ceasefire in Idlib and increase assistance to health and governance structures to keep COVID-19 and ISIS in check.

Silencing the Guns in Syria’s Idlib

With the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib paused, the time is now for a deal sparing the rebellion’s last stronghold the full wrath of reconquest. The parties should pursue an improved ceasefire including the regime, Russia, Turkey and the Islamist militants entrenched in the province.

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Our People

Sam Heller

Former Adviser, Non-state Armed Groups

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria