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CrisisWatch Syria

Unchanged Situation

Tensions continued in north east as fighting broke out between Kurdish-led and pro-govt forces; Islamic State (ISIS) continued deadly attacks. In north east, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and govt-affiliated troops 23 Jan clashed in Qamishli city in Hassakeh province, reportedly wounding two pro-govt fighters after they opened fire on Kurdish-controlled post. Prior to fighting, SDF 10 Jan arrested regime officers and soldiers in Qamishli and 14 Jan cut off supply lines to regime-forces in Qamishli and Hassakeh cities. Kurdish security forces 31 Jan reportedly opened fire on pro-govt demonstrators protesting siege in Hassakeh, killing one and injuring four. Turkey blamed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for 2 Jan vehicle-borne IED attack in Ras al-Ayn city near Turkish border, which killed two children, and for 30 Jan car bomb that killed at least five in Afrin town, Aleppo province. IEDs 2 and 31 Jan also killed at least 13 civilians in Aleppo province. In north west, Russia continued airstrikes targeting southern countryside of Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces. Turkey 12 Jan evacuated last observation points in regime-controlled territory while mid-month further strengthened positions in southern Idlib. Also in north west, jihadist group Ansar Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade 17 Jan claimed previous day attack that reportedly injured three Turkish troops in Aleppo province. Meanwhile, ISIS continued attacks in centre and east: suspected ISIS attack 3 Jan reportedly killed at least nine govt troops in Hama province and attack in Deir Ez-Zor province 11 Jan killed at least eight pro-govt forces; in retaliation, Russia 17-19 Jan conducted 40 airstrikes targeting ISIS-linked targets in Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa provinces. In south, govt forces 11 Jan reportedly threatened to restore security control over western part of Daraa province unless reconciled former rebels cleared area of ISIS and al-Qaeda-backed cells. In Daraa, unknown assailants launched targeted killings of civil servants and IED attacks against former rebels continued. Suspected Israeli air raids 6 Jan reportedly struck Iran-linked targets in south and southern outskirts of capital Damascus, killing at least three; 13 Jan hit Iran-linked targets in Deir Ez-Zor province, killing dozens of pro-govt forces.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
6 Jun 2020
With the US Caesar Act coming into force, doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky. Arab News

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
28 Apr 2020
What appears to be an unprecedented government-sanctioned Russian media campaign against Bashar al-Assad may reflect frustration in Moscow over Assad's obstinacy at a time when Syria is a lesser priority. The Hour

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
6 Apr 2020
[...] this is an effort to minimize offending Moscow that reflects the fact that U.N. officials believe that continued cooperation with Russia is key to the future of humanitarian operations in Syria. New York Times

Richard Gowan

UN Director

Latest Updates

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.

Also available in العربية, Türkçe

Virus Fears Spread at Camps for ISIS Families in Syria’s North East

Disease has long been a daily concern at al-Hol, a detention camp in north-eastern Syria for families of ISIS militants, but now each death raises anxiety about COVID-19. With repatriations on hold, the UN and other international bodies must step up medical and humanitarian aid.

Our People

Sam Heller

Former Adviser, Non-state Armed Groups

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria