The Syrian conflict since 2011 is a constellation of overlapping crises. Each of its global, regional and sub-national dimensions demands a tailored response set within an overarching framework. Instead, chronic violence and worsening suffering have killed more than 250,000 people, fueling radicalisation, refugee flight and a self-sustaining war economy. Outside stakeholders must learn from the way the Syrian conflict has repeatedly dashed unrealistic expectations on all sides. Crisis Group pursues a comprehensive approach for achieving a sustainable decline in violence and, ultimately, a political settlement. We also seek to correct dominant narratives that focus on jihadism and migrant flows, which are the symptoms, rather than the causes, of the problem.

CrisisWatch Syria

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict Risk Alert

Marking one of most violent periods in years, regime and Russia esca-lated bombardment in north west, Türkiye intensified strikes and ISIS maintained desert insurgency; Israel-Hamas war threatened to spread to Syria.

North west witnessed most intense bombing since March 2020 ceasefire. Suspected Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)-operated suicide drones 5 Oct struck Homs mili-tary academy graduation, killing at least 89 soldiers and civilians and injuring over 270; by striking more than 140km away from Idlib, attack may signal new phase of HTS campaign against regime. In response, regime and Russian forces same day began intensive shelling of Idlib and Aleppo provinces, which during Oct killed at least 50 civilians and displaced almost 70,000. Drone attacks 7 Oct reportedly targeted Russia’s Istamo airbase in Latakia province and Aleppo city 8-18 Oct. Russia 13 Oct increased airstrikes in Idlib and regime forces mid-month intensified shelling; HTS and allied groups retaliated with artillery, snipers, and guided missiles, while suspected HTS-operated drones targeted communities across north and east Hama.

In north east, Türkiye intensified anti-Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) strikes. In response to 1 Oct PKK attack in Turkish capital Ankara (see Türkiye), Turkish FM Hakan Fidan 4 Oct declared all PKK and People’s Protection Units infrastructure “legitimate targets”; subsequent drone strikes targeted water and energy infrastructure and Syrian Democratic Forces targets, killing more than 50 and exacerbating humanitarian crisis.

Islamic State (ISIS) attacked in centre. ISIS stepped up pressure on regime forces in Homs province; following 5-18 Oct probing attacks, ISIS 18 Oct seized and held six regime outposts south of Sukhnah town and Wadi Doubayat gas field.

Amid Israel-Hamas war, tit-for-tat attacks between Iran-backed groups and U.S., Israel could escalate. Following Hamas-Israel war outbreak (see Israel-Palestine), Iranian forces reportedly repositioned around 300 Syrian and Lebanese fighters to Quneitra, underscoring potential for Israel’s war on Gaza to draw in regional actors. Suspected Iran-backed forces in Quneitra and Dara’a 11-29 Oct fired artillery shells at northern Israel, prompting multiple Israeli retaliatory strikes: notably, Israel shelling 25 Oct killed eight Syrian soldiers. In east, U.S. 31 Oct said suspected Iran-backed forces conducted total eleven attacks on its positions since 7 Oct; U.S. 26 Oct launched two airstrikes near Mayadeen city in response.

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In The News

31 May 2023
Turkey is highly unlikely to compromise on troop withdrawal [from northern Syria]. Reuters

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion
17 May 2023
It's important to remember that [Syrian president] Assad's return to the Arab League is a symbolic measure to begin the process of ending his regional isolation. AFP

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states
13 Apr 2023
The U.S. and Europe have made it clear that they do not agree with Arab states normalizing with the Assad regime, but there doesn’t seem to be much they can do about it. New York Times

Anna Jacobs

Senior Analyst, Gulf states
22 Feb 2023
The UAE has, since 2021, embarked on a policy of diminishing tensions with other countries in the region, and normalizing with Assad is part of that. Al Monitor

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa
10 Feb 2023
If the UN fails to extend its operation [in Syria] via these [Turkish border] crossings, donor states should bypass the UN and do bilateral assistance themselves. The Guardian

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion
16 Jan 2023
Whenever the American forces there [in Syria] are attacked, the question arises again: Why are they there? Globe Echo

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Adviser for Dialogue Promotion

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