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Hostilities in north west and Türkiye’s operations in north east continued at lower intensity, Islamic State (ISIS) maintained deadly desert insurgency, and Israel, U.S. and Iran-backed groups traded fire amid Gaza war.
In north west, fighting eased. Hostilities between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and regime gradually returned to levels before escalation triggered by 5 Oct attack on Homs military academy. Nevertheless, Russian airstrikes 11 Nov continued in Idlib province, regime continued shelling south of M5 highway and suspected HTS suicide drone attacks on army positions persisted; drone attack 18 Nov killed regime colonel at Aleppo military college.
In north east, Türkiye continued intermittent strikes. After ending major air campaign late Oct against Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated targets, Turkish drone strike 15 Nov reportedly killed three militants near Kobane city, Aleppo province. Türkiye 17 Nov announced killing PKK’s “ideological division manager”. Four drone strikes 23-25 Nov hit vehicles across north east, killing veteran PKK commander.
ISIS exacted high toll on regime forces in centre. ISIS maintained high-level of attacks, making Nov deadliest month for pro-regime security forces in central desert in 2023. Notably, fighting around Doubayat gas field, Homs province, early Nov killed over dozen Iran-backed Afghan fighters. Two ISIS attacks 8 Nov killed at least 30 pro-govt militants and soldiers. ISIS cells expanded operations to Kawm axis between Sukhnah town, Homs, and Resafa town, Raqqa, and 11 Nov besieged regime forces. ISIS militants 22, 24 Nov conducted rare attacks inside regime-held towns along Euphrates.
Syria saw Israel-Hizbollah clashes and hostilities between U.S. and Iran-backed forces. Suspected Hizbollah drone from near Homs city 9 Nov targeted school in Israeli city Eilat; in response, Israeli airstrikes 10 Nov killed at least seven Hizbollah members south of Homs. Rockets 11, 14 Nov targeted northern Israel, triggering retaliatory shelling. Israeli airstrikes 22 Nov reportedly killed two Hizbollah affiliates near Damascus. Israel 26 Nov again incapacitated Damascus International Airport. Meanwhile, Iranian and Iran-backed forces continued dozens of attacks on U.S. positions, including rocket strike 29 Nov; U.S. 8, 12 Nov retaliated by striking two targets in Deir ez-Zor, killing at least eight in latter.
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.
Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reasserted control in north east amid tensions with Arab leaders, clashes continued between rebels and regime in north west and anti-govt protests persisted in south.
In north east, tensions simmered between SDF and Arab tribes. Following anti-SDF uprising in Deir ez-Zor province late Aug that saw clashes as Arab tribes effectively abandoned posts and called for unified opposition against group, U.S. officials 3 Sept met Arab tribal leaders and SDF commanders to diffuse tensions. SDF early Sept bolstered forces to regain control of towns and 6 Sept declared end of military operations but near-daily insurgent attacks continued. Renewed clashes 25 Sept erupted in Ziban town, as various actors late month attacked SDF positions across eastern Deir Ez Zor.
In north west, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and regime battled. Hostilities raged in southern Idlib during early Sept amid spate of Russian bombings as regime forces sought to regain strategic hills. HTS raid 1 Sept killed at least 16 soldiers in Latakia province and 2 Sept destroyed regime position in western Aleppo. HTS attack 15 Sept killed five soldiers in Latakia. UN 19 Sept commenced aid deliveries to Idlib for first time since July.
Turkish-Kurdish clashes persisted, Israel conducted airstrikes. Turkish drone 7 Sept killed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) commander in Hasakah province and drone strikes 17 Sept killed five Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) members in Hasakah; 19 Sept killed high-ranking People’s Protection Units (YPG) member in Manbij. SDF 18 Sept reportedly attacked Turkish-backed fighters, killing at least 13 in Tal Battal, Aleppo province. Meanwhile, Syrian state media reported Israeli airstrike 13 Sept targeted Tartous city, killing two soldiers and injuring six, and missile factory in Hama province. Israel 20 Sept struck two Syrian structures in Golan Heights; alleged Israeli drone next reportedly killed two near Beit Jinn (see Israel-Palestine).
Anti-govt protests continued in south. Protests in Suwayda and Deraa provinces, sparked by currency crisis in Aug, took on more overtly anti-Assad tones as thousands marched calling for regime’s downfall. Aside from Baath Party guards 13 Sept firing at protestors in Suwayda, injuring three, regime response centred on negotiations with Druze leaders.
Major battle erupted between Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and regime in northwest as Russia renewed airstrikes and Islamic State (ISIS) killed dozens in centre; collapsing currency triggered protests.
Hostilities escalated between HTS and regime, leading to fierce battle. In Idlib province, HTS 7 Aug launched raid 10km behind regime lines to destroy Russian-Syrian base, 11 Aug conducted raid on Latakia front, and 26 Aug detonated tunnel bomb beneath regime base in southern Idlib. As of 28 Aug, HTS continued to heavily shell regime forces around southern Idlib amid one of most intense battles in northwest since 2020 ceasefire, although fighting remained contained to artillery and sniper fire. Amid hostilities, Russian resumed airstrikes in Idlib: 21-22 Aug killed 15 HTS members and late Aug intensified deadly strikes across region.
ISIS attacks surged in centre. ISIS 7 Aug temporarily captured largest regime position near village of Shoula, Deir Ez Zor and two checkpoints along Raqqa-Deir Ez Zor highway. ISIS 8 Aug killed eight regime troops and pro-govt fighters in Raqqa province and 10 Aug killed at least 25 soldiers outside Mayadeen town. Upsurge in attacks may indicate group’s shift away from areas dominated by international coalition. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 18 Aug killed group’s eastern region emir in Raqqa city.
Currency crisis sparked rare anti-govt rallies. Syrian pound 16 Aug fell to 15,500 to $1 USD, sparking general strike next day in Suwayda province, protests 18 Aug in Daraa city and rare protest in capital Damascus amid reports of increased social media criticism of govt among Alawites; protestors in Suwayda city 24 Aug raided ruling party’s office. Anti-regime protests persisted late month among Druze population of Suwayda and across opposition-held northern Syria.
Hostilities erupted in northeast, regime allowed aid in northwest. In eastern Deir Ez Zor in northeast, clashes beginning 28 Aug between SDF and Arab groups reportedly killed dozens after SDF 27 Aug arrested commander. After month-long pause, Damascus 8 Aug acquiesced to UN efforts to reopen Bab al-Hawa border crossing for humanitarian aid for six months; HTS-aligned authorities in Idlib, however, rejected aid sanctioned by Damascus.
New insurgent group emerged in Idlib amid hostilities between regime and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Russia blocked cross-border aid, and clashes between Turkish-backed and Kurdish militants continued.
New militant faction emerged in Idlib as hostilities persisted. After “Revolutionary Shield Company” late June emerged in Idlib province, claiming to fight HTS “criminality”, group 14 July executed man accused of being HTS member outside Idlib city and 17 July searched vehicles on M4 highway; attacks come after nearly four years of relative stability in Idlib. Meanwhile, regime continued shelling throughout July, including civilian homes in Jisr al-Shoughur 9 July and “double-tap” attack killing rescue worker in Aleppo province 11 July. HTS 7 July conducted first raid since April, targeting regime position in Latakia, and 10 July shelled regime base in Jurin, Hama, killing one. Unknown group, likely HTS, 19 July conducted drone attack on Russian base in Hmemeim, Latakia.
Russian veto on cross-border aid compounded humanitarian crisis in north-west. Russia 11 July vetoed renewal of UN Security Council authorisation for cross-border aid in north-west, where 3mn have been without aid since 10 July. Govt 13 July said it would allow aid through Bab al-Hawa crossing providing UN does not communicate with “terrorist organisations”, referring to de-facto authorities in northwest.
Turkish-backed and Kurdish forces continued hostilities, particularly in northern Aleppo. In northern Aleppo, controlled by Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA), car bomb 9 July killed five civilians in Shawa village. Turkish IED 9 July killed three in Manbij city, including senior commander of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-affiliated Manbij Military Council. People’s Defence Units (YPG) forces 10 July raided TFSA position near Afrin city, killing at least five. SDF forces same day shelled Turkish base near Azaz, north Aleppo. Militants affiliated with YPG 29 July attacked TFSA positions in Afrin; Turkish drones next day struck YPG and regime positions nearby in response.
In other important developments. Alleged Israeli airstrikes 2 July targeted Homs city; 19 July struck near capital Damascus. U.S. airstrike 7 July killed alleged ISIS leader in al-Bab city, Aleppo governorate. Middle East Eye 12 July reported U.S. plans to assassinate leaders of Iran-linked resistance factions.
Deadly fighting escalated between Türkiye and Kurdish militants in north, while Russia and regime forces stepped up attacks in north west; Islamic State (ISIS) killed regime general in centre.
Hostilities surged between Türkiye and Kurdish forces in north. Kurdistan Workers’ Party 10 June terminated four-month unilateral ceasefire, citing Turkish operations in Syria and Iraq (see Türkiye and Iraq). Turkish drone strike 10 June killed senior People’s Protection Units (YPG) commander in Tel Rifaat, Aleppo province; YPGlinked forces next day shelled Turkish base east of Azaz, prompting Turkish forces to retaliate with counter-battery fire. IED 12 June killed Russian soldier in Tel Rifaat. YPG-linked Afrin Liberation Forces 13 June shelled Turkish base near Kafr Jannah, west of Azaz; Turkish forces 14 June struck Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian regime positions in Tel Rifaat and Manbij areas, killing at least eight Syrian soldiers, over dozen SDF/YPG fighters and several civilians. Turkish drone 14 June killed commander of Syrian branch of Turkish Marxist-Leninist Communist Party and 20 June killed PYD co-chair of Qamishli canton near Qamishli. Attacks on both sides somewhat subsided late June.
Russia and regime forces increased attacks in north west. Russia steadily increased number of airstrikes on opposition-held Idlib to levels not witnessed since late 2021 after dominant rebel group Hei’at Tahir al-Sham (HTS) late May killed senior Russian officer. Notably, Russian warplanes 19 June carried out around 10 attacks near Idlib city and 23-27 June killed at least nine civilians across Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces, causing displacement and aggravating humanitarian crisis. Large contingents of regime forces 19 June deployed to northern Aleppo, while regime stepped up artillery strikes; suspected HTS forces 22-23 June conducted four drone strikes in regime-held cities of Salhab, Qardaha and Deir Shamal. Russian airstrike 27 June reportedly hit HTS military post in Idlib’s Jabal al-Zawiya area, killing at least six militants.
ISIS continued intermittent attacks, Israel struck Damascus. ISIS struck mostly in eastern Homs, Deir al-Zour and Quneitra provinces; notably, IED attack 13 June killed regime general in Homs city – first attack in city since 2017. Syrian state media reported Israeli missiles 14 June injured Syrian soldier in capital Damascus.
Arab League readmitted Syria after 12-year suspension, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed first attack in capital Damascus since Sept 2021, and Jordan’s first airstrikes since 2015 killed drug kingpin and family.
Arab League welcomed President Assad’s return. Arab League 7 May reinstated Syria’s membership, following 12-year suspension, after Damascus promised to end captagon trafficking. Syria and Saudi Arabia 9 May announced they would each reopen diplomatic mission in the other’s capital. Assad 18 May arrived in Jeddah in first visit to Saudi Arabia since start of war and next day attended Arab League summit, amid reports of limited refugee return policy being hammered out at gathering. Meanwhile, Turkish, Russian, Syrian and Iranian FMs 10 May met in Russian capital Moscow in highest-level talks since 2011 war.
ISIS activity slowed despite deadly attack in Damascus. ISIS activity in central Syria decreased following high-intensity attacks during truffle harvesting season; regime stepped up anti-ISIS operations in Suwayda province but ceased major operations in eastern Homs. ISIS 10 May claimed IED attack in Damascus, however, killing two police officers, and in first killing of senior officer in a year, ISIS 17 May killed army colonel and several others in Raqqa province.
Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) killed Russian colonel in north west. Idlib’s dominant rebel group HTS continued harassing regime forces along north-western front with near-daily lethal sniper attacks, while regime conducted deadly artillery strikes, mainly in Idlib’s Jabal al-Zawiyah area. HTS 26 May struck regime headquarters along Latakia front, killing Russian colonel – highest-ranking Russian officer killed by rebel forces since 2016; Russia responded with bombing runs in southern Idlib, first such attacks in six months.
Jordan, Israel, Türkiye and U.S. launched airstrikes. In its first-ever airstrikes on regime-affiliated positions, Jordan 8 May bombed abandoned drug facility in southern Deraa province and killed drug kingpin and his seven-member family in Suwayda province. Israeli missiles 1 May targeted Aleppo airport, killing one soldier (see Israel-Palestine). Türkiye continued drone strikes targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (see Türkiye). U.S. military 3 May launched airstrike, killing man reportedly mistakenly identified as al-Qaeda member in Idlib province.
Damascus intensified normalisation with Arab states, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attacked regime in northwest, and Islamic State (ISIS) launched near-daily attacks in centre as Türkiye killed group’s global leader.
Syria and Arab states pursued normalisation. Syrian FM Faisal Mekdad visited several Arab countries for first time since start of war in 2011. Mekdad 1 April met Egyptian counterpart in Egyptian capital Cairo and 12 April met Saudi FM in Saudi Arabian city Jeddah, next day announcing move toward reopening embassies and resuming flights. Syria and Tunisia 12 April re-established diplomatic ties; Mekdad 18 April met Tunisian President Saied in Tunis. Mekdad 15 April met Algerian counterpart in Algeria. Saudi FM Faisal bin Farhan 18 April met President Assad in capital Damascus, amid discussion of Syrian participation in May Arab League meeting. Meanwhile, Syrian, Turkish, Russian and Iranian officials 4 April met in Russian capital Moscow to foster Turkish-Syrian rapprochement (see Türkiye).
HTS targeted regime forces along north-western front. Idlib’s dominant group HTS and allied factions conducted raids on regime positions in north west, while al-Qaeda-leaning Ansar al-Islam for first time in several years conducted two raids 7 and 14 April. Notably, HTS and allies began regularly using anti-tank guided missiles for first time since March 2020.
ISIS continued attacks, Turkish operation killed group’s chief. ISIS cells launched near-daily attacks on civilians in centre, killing dozens during April, and engaged in battles with regime and Russian Wagner Group forces. U.S.-led coalition airstrike 3 April killed senior ISIS leader in Idlib and coalition 8 and 17 April conducted raids to capture two ISIS leaders in north east and Aleppo province. Turkish President Erdogan 30 April announced killing of suspected ISIS global leader in Aleppo.
Israel launched airstrikes and Türkiye struck Kurdish forces. Israel 2, 4, 8, 9, 29 April launched airstrikes amid multi-front escalation (see Israel-Palestine). Turkish defence minister 17 April announced “neutralisation” of ten People’s Defense Units/Kurdish Workers’ Party (YPG/PKK) militants in northern Aleppo after alleged YPG/PKK attack previous day injured four Turkish soldiers. Turkish drone strikes 14 April killed two senior YPG/PKK commanders in Qamishli.
Regime and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) resumed hostilities in north west, tensions flared between U.S. and Iran-backed forces in east, and President Assad sought to end diplomatic isolation.
In north west, cross-line tit-for-tat attacks returned and Turkish-backed militants killed Kurdish civilians. After weeks-long hiatus following earthquake, Idlib’s dominant faction HTS in March resumed raids and sniping operations on regime positions in north west, including in Idlib province 16 March and in Latakia province next day; regime had stepped up shelling of Idlib province following earthquakes. HTS and regime 23 March clashed in northern Aleppo province, killing 10 from both sides. Turkish-backed militants 20 March killed several Kurds during Kurdish new year celebrations near Jinderis town, Aleppo province; thousands next day protested in Jinderis.
U.S. and Iran-backed forces clashed in east and Islamic State (ISIS) continued attacks in centre. Alleged Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated groups 23 March launched drone attack on base near Hasakah city, killing U.S. contractor and injuring six U.S. troops; in retaliation, U.S. conducted airstrikes on alleged IRGC-affiliated groups, killing several militants (see Iran). Further attacks next day targeted coalition forces, wounding U.S. service member. Meanwhile, suspected ISIS cells in March increased activity in centre, conducting at least 30 attacks that killed dozens. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and International Coalition continued anti-ISIS operations in north east.
Regime continued normalisation drive as Syrian-Turkish rapprochement stalled. President Assad 15 March met Russian President Putin. Assad 19 March visited United Arab Emirates and met President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Saudi media 23 March reported Riyadh was in talks with Damascus to reestablish consular relations (see Saudi Arabia). Assad 16 March ruled out meeting Turkish President Erdoğan until Ankara announces timetable for withdrawal from Syria; reports late month indicated possible meeting between Iran, Türkiye, Syria and Russia in early April.
In other important developments. Israeli airstrikes 7, 22 March reportedly hit Aleppo airport and 30-31 March struck Damascus; alleged Israeli rockets 12 March hit Hama and Tartus provinces. World Food Programme 15 March said situation in Syria is “worse than ever” with over half of population lacking food.
Earthquake killed thousands as regime used international aid to reduce isolation, while crisis reduced both hostilities in north west and Turkish operations in north; Islamic State (ISIS) attack killed scores.
President Assad leveraged earthquake aid for soft normalisation. Earthquake 6 Feb killed over 5,900 people, predominantly in rebel-held north west. Dozens of countries, including every Arab state except Qatar, flew aid into regime-held areas. First UN aid convoy 9 Feb arrived in rebel-held north west. U.S. 9 Feb issued six-month sanctions exemption for aid. In Idlib province, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) refused to cooperate in cross-line aid from regime-controlled areas; govt 13 Feb authorised UN aid via Bab al-Salameh and Ar-rai border crossings from Türkiye. Meanwhile, Tunisian President Saied 9 Feb announced intention to strengthen ties with Syria; Jordanian FM 15 Feb and Egyptian FM 27 Feb visited capital Damascus for first time since 2011; parliamentarians from eight regional countries 26 Feb visited President Assad.
HTS raids on regime and hostilities between Turkish and Kurdish forces declined. HTS ceased cross-line attacks on regime positions in Idlib and Latakia following earthquake until 26 Feb, when it raided position in Latakia. Hostilities between Turkish forces and People’s Defence Units (YPG) witnessed slight reduction; nevertheless, YPG rocket attack 7 Feb struck Türkiye’s Kilis province, while Turkish drones 12, 16 and 22 Feb struck Kurdish targets in Hasakah and Aleppo provinces.
ISIS attack killed scores in central Syria. In largest-scale assault in central Syria since April 2021, suspected ISIS cell 17 Feb killed at least 60 civilians and police escorts near Sukhnah, Homs province. Meanwhile, U.S. forces early Feb killed alleged senior ISIS leader in eastern Deir ez-Zor province. U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces 10 Feb killed two ISIS leaders, and 16 Feb conducted ISIS arrest raid, which left four U.S. soldiers injured. Coalition forces 18 Feb arrested ISIS member in Hasakah province.
In other important developments. Israeli airstrikes 18 Feb struck Damascus, reportedly killing five and injuring 15. U.S. 14 Feb downed Iranian drone in Deir ez-Zor province; suspected Iranian rockets 18 Feb targeted U.S. forces in Green Village base, Deir ez-Zor province.
Türkiye targeted Kurdish and regime forces in north and signalled willingness to normalise ties with regime, while Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) battled regime and economic hardship persisted.
Türkiye continued operations in north amid concerns over its warming ties with regime. Türkiye reportedly carried out at least eight drone strikes targeting Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in north east. After Türkiye’s presidential spokesperson 14 Jan asserted ground operation was “possible any time”, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) head Mazlum Kobani 16 Jan said he expected attack in Feb. In Aleppo, Türkiye continued shelling regime forces, notably killing two high-ranking officers near Nubl town 12 Jan. Meanwhile, concerns rose over Ankara’s rapprochement with Damascus: Idlib’s dominant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) 2 Jan criticised last month’s Ankara-Moscow-Damascus talks as “dangerous deviation”, while U.S. 3 Jan said “now is not the time”; Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar 4 Jan reassured Türkiye-backed groups Ankara would not take steps they oppose. Turkish President Erdoğan 5 Jan signalled possible meeting with President Assad. Thousands 6 Jan protested in Idlib and Aleppo provinces against Turkish reconciliation with regime.
HTS continued raids on regime positions. HTS conducted six raids against regime in Idlib and Aleppo provinces, as allied units from HTS-led Fatah Mubin coalition joined operations for first time; regime responded by shelling towns in Idlib.
Regime grappled with growing economic and fuel crises. Assad 14 Jan met Iranian FM in capital Damascus to discuss much-needed fuel shipments and financial support, and agreed to renew strategic economic ties; moved followed Assad’s approval in Dec of draft 2023 budget at $3.6bn, compared to 2022’s $5.3bn, reflecting slashed subsidies.
In other important developments. Military announced Israeli missiles 2 Jan hit Damascus airport, killing at least two soldiers; airstrikes 29-30 Jan reportedly struck convoy of Iran-linked groups near Iraq-Syria border. Two rockets 4 Jan hit site housing U.S. troops in Deir ez-Zor province; three drones 20 Jan targeted U.S. al-Tanf base, Homs province. SDF early and 25 Jan conducted anti-Islamic State operations in Hasakah province and Raqqa, arresting hundreds. UN Security Council 9 Jan unanimously extended cross-border aid into north west for six months.
Hostilities between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces eased in north, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) raided regime positions, and protests erupted in Suwayda over economic hardship.
Hostilities between Türkiye and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) somewhat eased. Following start of new Turkish operation on 19 Nov, hostilities continued along “Peace Spring” front line during month, albeit at lower intensity. Notably, suspected Turkish drone 17 Dec reportedly killed three civilians near Kobani, Aleppo province. Concern persisted that Ankara remains intent on new ground incursion into north (see Türkiye). Govt mid-month began moving Russian-backed 25th division units to Manbij countryside, Aleppo province. Meanwhile, Turkish officials hinted at normalisation with Damascus: Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan 28 Dec met with Russian and Syrian counterparts, marking first official ministerial-level engagement between Türkiye and Syria in 11 years.
HTS launched series of raids on regime positions. Following raids in Sept-Oct and marking escalation in ground activity, Idlib’s dominant rebel group HTS 11 Dec conducted raids on regime positions in northern Latakia and eastern Idlib provinces, 17 Dec in western Aleppo province and 18 Dec in eastern Idlib province; HTS described raids as “defensive actions” aimed at countering regime forces’ movements and new positions.
Popular unrest erupted in Suwayda province in south west. Amid acute fuel shortage and consequent spike in cost of basic goods, mass anti-govt protests 4 Dec broke out in Suwayda city, Suwayda province; protesters burnt down governorate building and attacked police station, while security forces reportedly responded with live fire, leaving one police officer and one protester dead.
Islamic State (ISIS) continued low-level insurgency, as Israel struck targets. Two ISIS militants 26 Dec infiltrated Internal Security headquarters in Raqqa city, killing at least six security forces personnel; ISIS militants 30 Dec killed at least ten oil workers in Tayyem Oil Field outside Deir Ez Zor city. U.S. forces 11 Dec killed two ISIS militants in helicopter raid in east; U.S. 20 Dec said it arrested six ISIS members, including “senior official” Al-Zubaydi, in east. Military 20 Dec said Israeli airstrikes injured two soldiers near capital Damascus (see Israel-Palestine).
Türkiye intensified attacks against Kurdish-led forces after deadly Istanbul bombing, threatening ground offensive in north that could trigger displacement and fuel escalatory cycle of violence.
Türkiye stepped up strikes against Kurdish-led forces, threatening ground incursion. Following 13 Nov bombing in Turkish city Istanbul that killed six, which Türkiye blamed on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkish forces 20 Nov launched “Operation Claw-Sword” in northern Syria and Iraq (see Türkiye); Turkish defence ministry claimed strikes targeting Kobani and Tal Rifat in Aleppo province, Cizire and Derik in Hasakah province and northern Iraq 20-21 Nov killed 184 militants. Turkish President Erdoğan from 21 Nov repeatedly signalled possible ground invasion into north as Ankara reportedly negotiated with Russia on possible offensive west of Euphrates River; potential ground operation in coming weeks – fourth since 2016 – would risk large-scale displacement, civilian casualties and escalatory cycle of violence with YPG. U.S. 23 Nov said Turkish strikes in Syria threatened safety of U.S. personnel and progress of anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations. Meanwhile, retaliatory cross-border attacks into Türkiye increased: notably; rocket attack 21 Nov killed three civilians in Gaziantep province.
Russia continued strikes in Idlib, while Israel attacked regime bases. Russian aircraft 6 Nov bombed IDP camps near Idilb city, reportedly killing at least nine civilians and injuring over 70. Syrian military claimed Israeli missiles 13 Nov hit Shayrat air base in Homs province, killing two servicemen; Syrian state media reported Israeli airstrikes 19 Nov killed four soldiers and injured one in military bases in central and western Syria.
Deadly unclaimed attacks continued. Unidentified drone strike 8 Nov targeted militia convoy, reportedly killing at least 14, including suspected Iranian nationals, in Deir Ez-Zor province. Explosion near capital Damascus 21 Nov killed two, including Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps colonel. Rocket attack 22 Nov reportedly killed five civilians in Aleppo province’s Azaz city, controlled by Türkiye-backed groups.
In other important developments. Beheaded bodies of two teenage Egyptian girls were found in al-Hol camp in north east 15 Nov. Erdoğan 17 Nov raised prospect of normalising relations with Damascus following Turkish elections in 2023.
Deadly clashes erupted between opposition groups in north west as Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) expanded beyond Idlib, prompting Turkish deployment; Russia continued air raids in Idlib.
In north west, hostilities broke out between HTS and Turkish-backed groups. Idlib’s dominant rebel group HTS blamed Turkish-backed groups for 7 Oct shooting of citizen journalist and wife in al-Bab city. In significant escalation, HTS and allied groups 11 Oct entered Afrin city in northern Aleppo and repelled Third Corps of Türkiye-backed coalition of armed groups Syrian National Army located there since 2018, as fighting reportedly killed dozens. Türkiye 15 Oct brokered truce, with HTS agreeing to withdraw from Afrin. However, HTS 17 Oct seized Kafr Jana town from rival Turkish-aligned faction, after sides accused each other of breaking deal, and 18 Oct approached Azaz city; Turkish troops same day deployed around Kafr Jana to end fighting. Meanwhile, HTS late Sept and 5 Oct conducted rare ground operation to expel regime forces after they advanced into no-man’s land in western Aleppo province toward Idlib.
Russia stepped up airstrikes in Idlib and Türkiye struck Kurdish and regime forces. After conducting five air raids last month, Russia continued bombings in Idlib province on 7, 11 and 17 Oct, straining March 2020 ceasefire. Turkish drone 6 Oct killed People’s Defence Units (YPG) commander in Aleppo province. Turkish forces 7 Oct shelled govt border guards base in Aleppo province, killing at least four.
Islamic State (ISIS) maintained simmering insurgency in multiple provinces. In north east, coalition 6 Oct claimed it killed ISIS leader in Hasakah province and two others in “northern Syria”; 10 Oct reportedly killed ISIS militant in Raqqa province. ISIS 16 Oct assassinated son of pro-Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia commander in Hasakah province. In south, regime forces and reconciled rebels 14 Oct ambushed large ISIS cell in Jassem city, Daraa governorate, allegedly killing Daraa emir. In centre, ISIS cells targeted regime forces across southern Raqqa and western Deir al-Zor provinces.
In other important developments. In capital Damascus, IED by unknown group 13 Oct killed at least 18 regime soldiers. Israel 21, 24 Oct reportedly conducted airstrikes on capital Damascus. Cholera spread continued, with death toll reaching 60.
Clashes involving Turkish, regime and Kurdish-led forces continued, UN raised risks of cholera outbreak, and Israel conducted airstrikes on regime facilities.In north, Turkish, regime and Kurdish-led forces clashed, and Idlib ceasefire held. Turkish drone 16 Sept reportedly killed five militants near checkpoint in Ain Issa, Raqqa province. Turkish airstrikes 18 Sept killed three regime soldiers in raid near Kobane, Aleppo province, following cross-border shelling targeting Turkish forces. IED attack by Kurdish militants 22 Sept reportedly killed one and injured three civilians in Afrin city, Aleppo province. Turkish and Kurdish-led forces 27 Sept exchanged shelling in northern Hasakah province, killing two according to state media. Idlib province’s March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations: notably, al-leged Russian airstrikes 8 Sept killed seven civilians near Hafsarja town; Russian strike 29 Sept killed seven and wounded 15.UN sounded alarm over cholera. UN 13 Sept warned that first cholera outbreak in years was serious threat to region, as dozens were killed from hundreds of suspected cases primarily in Aleppo (north) and Deir ez-Zor (north east) provinces; rising temperatures, and reduced upstream flow in Euphrates river, combined with dam-age to supply and sewage infrastructure, has left Syrians dependent on shrinking un-safe water sources.Low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) attacks continued, Israel targeted Aleppo and Damascus airports. In al-Hol camp in Hasakah province, clashes between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and alleged ISIS militants 8 Sept reportedly killed one ISIS militant and two SDF members. ISIS 11 Sept reportedly killed six SDF members near Ruwaished village in Deir ez-Zor province. SDF 17 Sept announced end of three-week anti-ISIS operation in al-Hol camp, arresting over 200 people. Mean-while, state media 6 Sept reported Israeli airstrike on Aleppo airport in second strike in one week. Defence ministry 17 Sept said Israeli airstrike hit targets near capital Damascus, including Damascus International Airport, killing five soldiers.In other important developments. U.S. Central Command reported that rocket attack 18 Sept targeted U.S. military base Green Village in Deir ez-Zor province.
Deadly clashes escalated in north between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces; Idlib ceasefire held despite violations, as skirmishes broke out between U.S. forces and Iran-linked groups. In north, suspected Turkish drone 6 Aug killed four, including top commander of Kurdish Workers’ Party’s (PKK) Iranian affiliate Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), in Qamishli city, Hasakah province; in response, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 8 Aug claimed three cross-border attacks into Türkiye. Turkish troops and Kurdish forces 16 Aug exchanged fire in Kobane, Aleppo province, killing one civilian, while mortar attack on border post reportedly killed Turkish soldier in Turkish province Şanlıurfa. In retaliation, Turkish defence ministry same day claimed Turkish artillery killed 13 suspected Kurdish militants. Syrian state media reported Turkish airstrike 16 Aug killed three regime soldiers and injured six in Aleppo province; Syrian army claimed to have responded by striking Turkish military sites. SDF 18 Aug claimed attacks on army sites in Turkish border provinces Şanlıurfa, Mardin and Gaziantep; Turkish media confirmed three soldiers killed and eight wounded in attacks on border posts in Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep. Kurdish-run administration 19 Aug accused Türkiye of drone attack on girls’ school in Hasakah province, killing four. Rocket attack on market same day killed at least 14 in Al-Bab city in Aleppo province, held by Türkiye-backed forces. Suspected Turkish drone 24 Aug reportedly targeted Tal Rifaat town, Aleppo province, allegedly injuring nine. Meanwhile, Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 11 Aug stated need to reconcile opposition with regime, stoking unprecedented anger as thousands 11-12 Aug protested Turkish policy in opposition-held areas across north. Idlib province’s March 2020 ceasefire held despite Russian airstrikes in central desert and Idlib province. U.S.-led coalition 15 Aug repelled drones allegedly operated by Iran-linked groups targeting its al-Tanf base in Homs province; U.S. 23 Aug launched airstrikes against groups allegedly linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Deir al-Zor and next day reported three injuries in subsequent exchanges with “Iran-backed militants”. State media 14 Aug claimed Israeli missiles killed three Syrian soldiers in Tartous province and near capital Damascus. Russian forces 26 Aug said Israeli jets targeted facility in Masyaf city, Hama province.
Idlib ceasefire held despite violations, U.S. claimed to have killed Islamic State (ISIS) leader in Syria, and UN Security Council extended cross-border aid mandate by six months. In north west, Idlib province’s March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations. Notably, four Russian airstrikes 22 July killed seven civilians in al-Jadidah village. Elsewhere in north, Turkish, regime and Kurdish-led forces traded fire; notably, Turkish shelling 4 July reportedly killed two in Ain Issa district, Raqqa province. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 4 July reportedly announced it would deepen military cooperation with regime to ward off potential Turkish incursion into northern Syria. U.S. military 12 July said U.S. drone strike killed man it claimed to be Maher al-Agal, alleged leader of ISIS in Syria, and injured another militant near Jindires, Aleppo province. Low-scale ISIS attacks continued throughout month; notably, ISIS affiliates 14 July reportedly killed five regime soldiers and injured three others near al-Tabqa city, Raqqa governorate. In southern Sweida province, clashes between residents and govt-aligned local faction 23-24 July killed at least 17 and wounded dozens. President Assad 9 July visited Aleppo city for first time since outbreak of war in 2011 to celebrate Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha and inaugurate thermal power plant. Defence ministry claimed Israeli airstrike 2 July wounded two civilians in al-Hamidiyah, Tartous province, and 22 July announced Israeli airstrike killed three soldiers and injured seven others near capital Damascus. After Russia 8 July vetoed resolution proposing 12-month extension of mandate for cross-border aid through Bab al-Hawa crossing from Türkiye into opposition-controlled north west Syria, UN Security Council 12 July adopted six-month extension instead; UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres said he “strongly” hoped for another six-month extension, while U.S. Envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of taking “entire Security Council hostage”. UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen 16 July stated talks between regime and opposition scheduled 25 July were “no longer possible”, reportedly because regime no longer considers Switzerland neutral due to its support for EU sanctions against Russia. Russian President Putin, Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Raisi 19 July met in Iran’s capital Tehran, where Russia and Iran voiced opposition to Türkiye’s planned incursion.
Israeli airstrike targeted Damascus airport, northern Syria braced for possible Turkish offensive, and country awaited outcome of crunch vote on cross-border aid at UN Security Council in July. Israeli airstrike 10 June hit Damascus International Airport, injuring one civilian and causing damage to runways; airport next day suspended all flights and 23 June reopened; Israeli media claimed attack sought to disrupt weapons smuggling from Iran to Hizbollah. In north west, Idlib province’s March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations. Turkish President Erdoğan 1 June said new military operation targeting Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) announced in May would target Tal Rifaat and Manbij areas in Aleppo province; Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 7 June said it was ready to cooperate with Syrian govt to resist Turkish incursion. Russia and govt reportedly reinforced positions close to Turkish border, amid reported near-daily rocket and artillery fire early month. While U.S. and Russian opposition appear for now to have forestalled offensive, operation, if it goes ahead, could create new instability in north and strain Türkiye’s ties with West. Fighting among factions of Türkiye-backed militia coalition Syrian National Army 18 June reportedly killed at least eight and injured scores in al-Bab city, Aleppo province; Türkiye next day reportedly facilitated deal to end clashes. Meanwhile, protests against high electricity prices and power outages erupted early month in Turkish-controlled areas of Aleppo province; security forces 3 June killed one protestor in Afrin city. Low-scale Islamic State (ISIS) attacks and Russian anti-ISIS airstrikes continued. U.S.-led coalition 16 June captured senior ISIS leader in northern Syria and 27 June killed “senior leader” of al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Hurras al-Din in Idlib province. In Raqqa province, ISIS 20 June killed eleven govt soldiers and two civilians in Jabal al-Bishri. Russia 15 June carried out airstrikes at al-Tanf military base used by U.S. and UK forces in Homs province; Russia reportedly notified U.S. beforehand. Ahead of expiry of UN mandate to deliver aid from Türkiye into opposition-controlled north west Syria on 10 July, UN Sec Gen 20 June appealed to UN Security Council to extend mandate; UN late month warned “people will die” without renewal.
Rocket attack killed ten govt-backed fighters in Aleppo, Idlib ceasefire held despite violations, and Israel reportedly conducted multiple deadly missile attacks. In Aleppo province, rocket attack on military bus 13 May killed ten govt-aligned militants and injured nine in Anjara area. In Idlib province, March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations reportedly including Russian air-strikes. In north east, Turkish-backed, Kurdish and regime forces reportedly traded fire throughout month. Turkish President Erdoğan 3 May announced initiative to build infrastructure in north-west Syria to facilitate voluntary return of one million Syrian refugees; Erdoğan 23 May announced plan to launch cross-border operation targeting Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and creating 30 km “safe zone” along border, without giving specific timeline; U.S. next day warned Turkey against offensive; Turkish drone strikes 27 May reportedly struck targets in Tel Rifaat town, north of Aleppo. Ahead of July UN Security Council vote on renewing mandate for cross-border humanitarian aid to north west Syria, Russian deputy UN ambassador said there was “no reason” to continue aid deliveries, raising prospect of Russian veto. In central desert, Russia reportedly carried out airstrikes targeting Islamic State (ISIS), while ISIS allegedly continued low-level attacks. Reports of Russian troop redeployments mid-month surfaced claiming Russia troops had withdrawn from Latakia province to Russia’s Hmeimim airbase, and allegedly transferred bases to Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanese Hizbollah. In Deir ez-Zor province, unidentified aircraft 7 May reportedly struck alleged Iran-backed militia positions in govt-held Hawija Katia area. Syrian state media reported Israel 11 May fired missiles at Hadar town, Quneitra province; 13 May carried out missile attack on alleged Iranian-linked target in Masyaf area, Hama province, killing five Syrians, including one civilian, and injuring seven; 20 May fired missiles near Damascus capital, killing three. Govt 17 May raised unsubsidised benzine and diesel price by around 40%, while cement price rose by 90%, raising fears of new bout of inflation.
Attack on U.S. military base injured four soldiers, govt-aligned militias and Syrian Democratic Forces besieged each other’s positions, and Idlib ceasefire held despite violations. Two explosions 7 April hit U.S. military base Green Village near al-Omar oil field in Deir ez-Zor province, injuring four U.S. soldiers; International Coalition reportedly responded with rocket fire on positions of Iranian-backed militias west of Euphrates. In Aleppo city, regime-affiliated militias besieged People’s Protection Forces (YPG)-controlled al-Ashrafiyyah and Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhoods, preventing entry of food, flour and oil for population of 200,000 people for three weeks; Russian-mediated talks 12 April reportedly failed to defuse crisis. In response, YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 14 April said they tightened siege on govt-controlled neighbourhoods in Qamishli and Hasakah city in Hasakah province, taking over around ten govt offices in Qamishli and closing highway to govt-run Qamishli airport. Offices of Kurdish National Council in Kobane city, Aleppo province, were reportedly attacked 20 April with Molotov cocktails; U.S. next day condemned attacks. In north east, Turkey continued shelling and drone strikes hitting YPG targets. In Idlib province, March 2020 ceasefire held despite escalating violations. Notably, govt forces 4 April shelled rebel-held Maaret al-Naasan, killing four children; Turkish-backed opposition forces and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham reportedly retaliated with artillery targeting govt positions. Russian warplanes same day reportedly carried out airstrikes in Fulayfil village in Jabal a-Zawiya area. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 23 April announced closing of Turkish airspace to Russian planes flying to Syria for three months. In central Syria, Russian airstrikes targeting Islamic State (ISIS) reportedly increased since beginning of month, killing dozens. Low-level ISIS attacks continued throughout month, reportedly killing several govt soldiers and SDF fighters. According to state media reports, Israel 9 April launched airstrike near Masyaf city in Hama province; 14 April reportedly fired missiles at Syrian military positions near capital Damascus. Amid skyrocketing food prices, World Food Programme early month reportedly announced reduction in food assistance in north-western Syria from May.
Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up attacks in central desert in face of reduced Russian airstrikes, Idlib ceasefire held, and President Assad visited Arab country for first time since 2011 uprising. In central desert, ISIS escalated attacks throughout month; most notably, suspected ISIS attack on military bus 6 March killed at least 13 soldiers in Palmyra desert, Homs governorate. In Idlib province, March 2020 ceasefire held despite ongoing Syrian govt shelling; after decline in airstrikes since 24 Feb invasion of Ukraine, Russia 28 March reportedly carried out strikes in Idlib. Following death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Quraishi in Feb, ISIS 10 March appointed Juma Awad al-Badri, known as Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, as new leader; al-Quraishi is believed to be brother of ISIS’s former “caliph”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Turkish artillery attacks and airstrikes continued against Kurdish group People’s Protection Forces (YPG)-linked targets; notably, Turkish military 8, 10 March targeted “Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)/YPG” positions at Turkey-Syria border. Turkish drone 15 March reportedly injured two civilians near Manbij, Aleppo governorate. Govt-aligned forces 27 March reportedly struck Turkish military vehicle near Atarib city in Aleppo governorate. In Hasakah province in north east, clashes between Syrian Democratic Forces and regime forces 1 March killed two regime soldiers in Ghazliya village near Tel Tamr. Israeli airstrike 7 March killed two Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders near Syrian capital Damascus (see Iran, Israel/Palestine and Iraq). Constitutional Committee including regime, opposition and civil society representatives 21-25 March held seventh round of talks in Swiss city Geneva. In first trip to Arab state since outbreak of civil war in 2011, President al-Assad 18 March visited United Arab Emirates (UAE) to meet UAE PM and Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan to discuss strengthening bilateral relations. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prices for basic goods including bread and cooking oil rose by 20% or more, while black market prices for diesel and benzine rose by nearly 50% and 40%, respectively, further aggravating economic and humanitarian crisis.
U.S. military raid in Idlib led to death of Islamic State (ISIS) leader, ceasefire in Idlib held, and Turkey launched airstrikes against Kurdish militants. U.S. special forces 3 Feb carried out overnight raid in Atma town in Idlib province targeting ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who reportedly detonated explosives that killed himself and family members; operation also killed several civilians and ISIS fighters. Raid raises concerns that Idlib could remain ISIS hideout, providing pretext for Russia and govt to attack area. Elsewhere in province, March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations; notably, govt shelling 12 Feb killed six civilians in Maraat al-Naasan village. Russia during month deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and hypersonic missiles at its Hmeimim airbase, likely to bolster presence along NATO’s southern flank; fears rose that war in Ukraine may have knock-on effects in Idlib, as Turkish support for Ukraine may provoke ire of Russia and fuel tensions between Moscow and Ankara (see Ukraine). ISIS attacks increased in north east following last month’s Ghwaryan prison clashes; notably, ISIS sleeper cell 9 Feb attacked SDF military point in Shuhail, Deir ez-Zor province, killing two SDF members. In north east, Turkey early month launched new military campaign Operation Winter Eagle against Kurdish militants, with dozens of warplanes carrying out air raids in Hasakah and Raqqah provinces. In Turkish factions-controlled area in north west, Kurdish group People’s Defence Units (YPG) 15 Feb killed four civilians and injured 12 in Azaz, Aleppo province, with rockets fired from Tal Rifaat city; Turkish-backed forces responded by shelling YPG in Tal Rifaat. In rare protest in govt-controlled area, hundreds 11 Feb demonstrated against worsening economic conditions in Druze-majority city As-Suwayda (south west). Syria 9 Feb fired anti-aircraft missile toward Israel in response to alleged Israeli attack on capital Damascus that killed one soldier and injured five; Israel same day carried out airstrike on Syrian missile batteries. According to Syrian state media, Israeli attack 24 Feb killed three soldiers near Damascus.
Islamic State conducted largest-scale attack since 2019, killing dozens and displacing thousands, amid ongoing insecurity in north west. In one of most significant Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in Syria since group’s territorial de-feat in 2019, ISIS 20 Jan attacked Kurdish-run Ghwayran/al-Sina’a prison in al-Hasakah city in attempt to free ISIS detainees; clashes in following days with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and U.S. coalition killed some 500 people, including over 370 ISIS fighters, according to SDF; UN 23 Jan estimated that fighting displaced tens of thousands of civilians. SDF 24 Jan said it raided parts of prison forcing militants to surrender. ISIS carried out other attacks throughout month, including alleged rocket attack on military transport bus 3 Jan killing five soldiers and injuring 20 in Badia area. SDF and ISIS 29 Jan engaged in renewed clashes around al-Sina’a prison complex. In Aleppo in north west, series of bombing attacks 13 Jan struck locations in Al-Bab, Afrin and Azaz towns, reportedly killing one civilian and two suspected suicide bombers. Turkey 15 Jan re-sponded by bombing SDF-controlled areas; according to SDF, Turkish bombing of Kobani city killed at least one civilian and injured 11. Shelling 20 Jan killed at least six in Afrin city and Maryamayn town, prompting Turkish forces to shell Kurdish-held areas. In Idlib in north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations. Russian fighter jets carried out air strikes in rebel-held areas in Idlib and ISIS targets in central desert; notably, air raids 13 Jan killed at least 11 ISIS members in Homs and Deir ez-Zor deserts. In Deir ez-Zor, U.S.-led coalition 5 Jan stated that Iranian-backed militias targeted SDF base Green Village housing coalition troops. Syrian state media reported that Israeli missiles 31 Jan targeted outskirts of capital Damascus. Six-month reauthorisation for using Bab al-Hawa border point for cross-border humanitarian assistance 10 Jan went into effect until 10 July. In historical verdict, German court 13 Jan sentenced former Syrian Colonel Anwar Raslan to life in prison for complicity in torture, 27 murders and physical and sexual assault during Syria’s civil war in 2011-2012.
Idlib ceasefire continued to hold, protests erupted against Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in north east, and Islamic State (ISIS) carried out attacks. In Idlib (north west), March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations. U.S.-led coalition 3 Dec reported carrying out airstrike killing alleged al-Qaeda-affiliated leader in al-Mastumah village and injuring six civilians. Russian fighter jets continued airstrikes which 11 Dec killed three civilians and injured 12 in Al-Yacoubian area near Jisr al-Sughour city. Depreciation of Turkish lira in opposition-held areas drove up key commodity prices in Idlib and Turkish-backed areas. In Deir ez-Zor governorate (east), IED targeting bus around 2 Dec killed ten workers near Al-Kharatah oil field; SDF 13 Dec reported carrying out raid backed by U.S.-led coalition near al-Busaira town, killing five suspected ISIS militants. Also in Deir ez-Zor, anti-SDF demonstrations broke out; notably, protesters 6-7 Dec demonstrated against deteriorating living standards in Abu Hammam town and called for release of detainees, reportedly taken during raid. In response to regime “settlement” campaign, SDF threatened to punish anyone signing regime pledges. ISIS continued deadly attacks in east, including 11 Dec reportedly killing seven regime-affiliated militants and soldiers and injuring 17 others in al-Masrab de-sert. In central desert, Russian fighter jets throughout month carried out airstrikes against ISIS targets. In south west, targeted assassinations continued in Daraa gover-norate and reports of regime forces’ build-up surfaced in As-Sweida governorate; local sources reported armed groups clashed with regime forces in As-Sweida city as regime planned to end governorate’s semi-independent status. U.S. and UK confirmed destroying one of two small drones which 14 Dec approached Al-Tanf garrison in south. State media reported that Israeli airstrike 7 Dec struck Latakia port (west) causing fire in container storage area; Israeli missile attacks 15 Dec reportedly targeted Syrian Golan region killing soldier, and 28 Dec hit Latakia port reportedly killing two govt-backed militiamen. Govt and opposition representatives along with Turkish, Russian and Iranian delegations 21-22 Dec met in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur Sultan for 17th round of Astana talks. EU 13 Dec imposed sanctions on Wagner Group, Russian paramilitary group active in Syria on behalf of Assad regime.
Idlib ceasefire continued to hold despite violations, prospect of imminent Turkish cross-border incursion abated, and Israel reportedly launched series of strikes. In Idlib in north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite violations. Notably, Russian air raids 11 Nov killed at least five civilians and injured six in Brouma farms north of Idlib city. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continued last month’s crackdown on opposing jihadist groups, primarily Jund Allah, in Jabal al-Turkman area in western Idlib and eastern Latakia province, taking control of Tal al-Mashafa, Tal al-Abraj, Tal Abu Afer and Salour villages. While reports of Turkish forces’ build-up in north west continued early month, media reports mid-month quoted anonymous diplomatic Turkish sources who said new Turkish military operation was suspended “for the time being” reportedly amid U.S. and Russian pressure. Meanwhile, Turkish shelling continued, notably around Tel Tamr. In Daraa in south west, targeted assassinations and insecurity persisted; notably, IED explosion 7 Nov killed two regime soldiers between Ezr’a and al-Sheikh Meskeen towns. In Deir ez-Zor governorate, Islamic State (ISIS) 12 Nov killed at least 13 regime-backed militants in Masrab desert. Car explosion 22 Nov killed four regime soldiers in al-Qusoor neighbourhood of Deir ez-Zor city. Regime forces 29 Nov shelled Nawa city in Daraa governorate, killing at least two civilians, following IED attack on regime vehicle which reportedly killed three soldiers. In central desert, Russian fighter jets continued airstrikes on ISIS targets throughout month. Israeli airstrikes 3 Nov reportedly targeted Zakia area in outskirts of capital Damascus, 8 Nov targeted areas in Homs governorate, including Shayrat Airport and around Tartous city, injuring two soldiers. Syrian state media 17 Nov reported two Israeli missiles targeted building south of capital Damascus and said Israeli airstrikes 24 Nov killed two civilians and injured seven in Homs. President al-Assad 15 Nov abolished position of grand mufti, delegating tasks to Council of Jurisprudence Scholars, prompting controversy among Sunni majority. In sign of improving ties between Assad govt and Arab states, United Arab Emirates FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan 9 Nov met Assad in Damascus; U.S. same day voiced “concern” over visit.
Deadliest attack in capital Damascus since 2017 killed over dozen regime soldiers, missile attack on Turkish forces raised prospect of renewed offensive in north west and hostilities rose in Idlib. In rare attack, two roadside bombs 20 Oct targeting bus carrying troops killed at least 14 military personnel. In north west, guided missile fired 10 Oct from Tel Rifaat city – controlled by People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian armed group with links to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – struck Turkish vehicle near Azaz city, Aleppo governorate, killing two Turkish officers; Kurdish militant group Afrin Liberation Forces reportedly carried out attack. Turkish forces responded by shelling YPG areas while Turkish President Erdoğan next day called attack “final straw”, raising prospect of renewed Turkish offensive against YPG. In Idlib province, March 2020 ceasefire held despite uptick in Russian airstrikes and regime attacks. Car bomb 11 Oct killed at least nine, injured ten near govt offices in Afrin city, Aleppo governorate. Regime forces 16 Oct shelled police station in rebel-held Sarmada town, Idlib, killing four and injuring at least 17. Reports mid-month surfaced of govt forces’ build up near Idlib governorate. Following Damascus attack, regime shelling 20 Oct killed at least 11, injured 30 in Ariha town, Idlib, in one of deadliest violations of March 2020 ceasefire. Other attacks during month killed at least six Turkish soldiers. In Daraa city in south west, Sept ceasefire deal held. In Deir ez-Zor governorate, unidentified drones 8, 11 Oct reportedly targeted Iran-affiliated militants. In central desert, clashes between Islamic State (ISIS) and govt forces, supported by Russian airstrikes, killed dozens throughout month. Alleged Iran-backed drone strike 20 Oct targeted U.S. military outpost in al-Tanf garrison in Homs governorate. Israeli airstrikes 8, 13 Oct killed regime soldiers and Iran-backed militants in Homs governorate, 30 Oct reportedly hit target in Damascus suburbs. Israeli sniper 16 Oct reportedly killed former Syrian Druze lawmaker in village near occupied Golan Heights. UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen 17 Oct announced Syrian Constitutional Committee agreed to start drafting new constitution during UN talks; Pedersen 22 Oct however called talks “big disappointment”.
Govt forces struck deal with rebels to end fighting in south west, Russia stepped up attacks in Idlib, and clashes continued between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces in north east. In Daraa governorate in south west, tensions cooled following months of hostilities after new deal 1 Sept came into force requiring total surrender of rebel weapons, house-by-house search of each Daraa al-Balad neighbourhood by regime forces and mandatory “settlement of status” process for all residents; at least 2,300 people across Daraa governorate struck deals with govt during month. Regime 4-5 Sept resumed shelling, killing three, after deal 3 Sept temporarily collapsed; agreement however held from 6 Sept. Insecurity in Daraa countryside prevailed, with at least 18 reportedly killed by unknown gunmen, regime fire and IED explosions 1-22 Sept. Jordan 27 Sept announced Jaber-Nassib border crossing with Daraa governorate would open 29 Sept. In north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite reported clashes and artillery shelling throughout month and Russia escalating attacks in Idlib governorate, with increase in airstrikes in Sept. Notably, govt shelling 7-8 Sept reportedly killed five civilians in Idlib city and Jabal al Zawiya area. Attack 11 Sept killed three Turkish soldiers, prompting Ankara 13 Sept to send military reinforcements to Idlib. International coalition airstrike 20 Sept reportedly killed two senior figures of al-Qaeda-affiliated group in eastern Idlib. Russian airstrike 26 Sept reportedly killed at least 11 Turkish-backed militants near Afrin city in Aleppo governorate; Turkish-backed militants reportedly responded by firing guided missile that killed two Syrian regime soldiers. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets. Notably, in Homs governorate, clashes between ISIS and regime-backed forces 7 Sept reportedly killed six pro-regime fighters in al-Sukhnah desert and ISIS attack 18 Sept in Palmyra reportedly killed five others. ISIS same day claimed attack previous day south east of capital Damascus that temporarily suspended energy provision to parts of country. In north east, Turkish-backed forces and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces clashed throughout month in Hasakah province, notably near Tel Tamr. Unattributed rockets 9 Sept hit outskirts of U.S. base in al-Shaddadi. Israeli airstrikes 3 Sept reportedly struck near capital Damascus.
Govt forces continued to target rebels in south west, hostilities persisted between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces in north east, and Idlib ceasefire held despite violations. In Daraa province in south west, regime throughout month renewed attacks on Daraa city’s besieged al-Balad neighbourhood as Russian-mediated talks continued to falter, reportedly over local leaders’ refusal to surrender rebels and weapons; fighting killed at least 32, including 12 civilians, and displaced at least 38,000 people by 24 Aug. U.S. and EU 4 Aug condemned escalation of violence; UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen 12 Aug warned civilians face shortages of basic goods and said “near siege-like situation must end”. In Hasakah province in north east, Turkish-backed armed groups 18-23 Aug and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) shelled one another’s positions. Suspected SDF explosive device 19 Aug reportedly killed one Turkish soldier and two Turkish-backed combatants in Ras al-Ayn countryside. Turkish airstrikes targeting Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria continued during month. In north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month that killed at least 23; notably, regime artillery shelling reportedly killed four children in Qastoun village in Hama province 7 Aug and nine people in separate attacks on Balshun and Kansafra villages in Idlib province 19-20 Aug. Explosion at training camp of jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham 24 Aug killed at least eight militants near Ram Hamadan village. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets, reportedly killing at least nine militants throughout month. Suspected ISIS explosive device 12 Aug reportedly killed two Iran-linked fighters. Israel reportedly launched airstrikes on Iran-linked targets near Hader town, Quneitra province, 17 Aug and on Homs province and weapons depot in Damascus countryside 19 Aug; latter reportedly killed four Hizbollah combatants. President Assad 10 Aug approved new cabinet; main portfolios unchanged.
Deadly violence between regime forces and former rebels escalated in south west; Idlib ceasefire held despite violations, and U.S. troops foiled attack on coalition base in east. In Daraa province in south west, conflict escalated in late July as regime forces 26 July launched artillery strikes and ground offensive on blockaded neighbourhoods, prompting renewed clashes with insurgents across province that 26-31 July reportedly killed at least 32 people, including children. Unidentified gunmen 1-26 July reportedly killed at least 17 civilians and 17 soldiers and former rebels who had enrolled in regime forces or struck reconciliation deals with govt. Regime forces from late June until late July severely restricted movement in and out of neighbourhoods of Daraa city after residents – who had organised campaigns to boycott May presidential elections – refused to relinquish their arms and strike new settlement deal with regime. In Idlib province in north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month that killed at least 35 people; notably, regime artillery shelling reportedly killed at least 24 civilians in Jabal al Zawiya area 3-22 July. Jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham ramped up pressure on smaller jihadist entities in Idlib throughout month, issuing ultimatums to Jundallah militants and Chechen group Junud al-Sham to either join its ranks or disband, prompting latter to dissolve. In Deir Ez-Zor province, U.S. and allied Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces 7 July foiled unidentified drone attack on base housing U.S. troops. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets, reportedly killing dozens of militants throughout month; suspected ISIS militants reportedly killed five govt soldiers and allied militia fighters in Raqqa countryside 13 July. Israel reportedly launched airstrikes on Iran-linked targets in al-Safirah area near Aleppo city 19 July, killing five militiamen, and on al-Qusayr area near Homs city 22 July. UN Security Council 9 July unanimously renewed authorisation for cross-border aid operations from Turkey through Bab al-Hawa crossing until 10 Jan 2022. Amid economic strains, govt 11 July announced sharp bread and fuel price hikes.
Clashes erupted in Manbij area in north east, Russian strikes in Idlib province resumed, and suspected ISIS militants killed dozens in central desert. In north east, following 31 May-1 June clashes between Kurdish security forces and predominantly Arab residents protesting mandatory conscription in Manbij area that left at least eight dead, Kurdish civilian administration 2 June agreed to suspend conscription, release protesters and investigate shootings after meeting with local tribes’ elders same day; latter 7 June issued 17 requests, including permanent end to conscription. In Hasakah province, also in north east, landmine 9 June struck Russian military convoy in al-Asadiyah village, killing one soldier. In Idlib province in north west, March 2020 ceasefire continued to hold despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month that killed at least 31; notably, in Jabal al Zawyeh area, regime artillery and Russian airstrikes reportedly killed 13 civilians and militants affiliated with jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) 10 June, and at least another nine 17 June. In Daraa province in south west, unidentified gunmen 1-23 June reportedly killed eight former rebels who had enrolled in or struck reconciliation deals with govt forces while landmine killed at least four govt soldiers. In Aleppo province, missile strikes 12 June reportedly targeted hospital in Afrin town, killing at least 13 people; some observers suspected Russia while Turkey blamed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). In central desert, Russia continued air raids against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets throughout month, reportedly killing dozens; suspected ISIS militants 3-5 June reportedly killed 23 govt troops and Iran-linked fighters in separate attacks. Israel 8 June reportedly launched airstrikes on govt troops and allied militia fighters in capital Damascus, killing at least 11. U.S. 27 June announced airstrikes in Iraq and Syria targeting “facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups”; Iran’s foreign affairs ministry immediately criticised action and unidentified assailants 28 June fired rockets at U.S. base in Deir Ez-Zor province. Ahead of 10 July UN Security Council vote to renew cross-border aid mandate, World Health Organization 25 June warned failure to renew mandate could trigger new “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Govt forces and rebels clashed in south west in lead-up to controversial presidential polls, which saw re-election of President Assad; meanwhile, ceasefire in Idlib held despite violations. Ahead of 26 May presidential election, Constitutional Court 3 May approved two opposition candidates for poll alongside Assad; U.S., UK, France and Germany 25 May denounced “fraudulent election”. Head of parliament 27 May declared Assad winner with over 95% of vote, marking his fourth term. In Daraa province in south west, discontent ahead of poll perceived as rigged fuelled tensions between former opposition groups and regime forces. Notably, unidentified gunmen 1-20 May reportedly killed at least 19 soldiers and ten former rebels who had enrolled in or struck reconciliation deals with govt forces. 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 Russian airstrike 3 March reportedly killed three people near Fuah town; militants affiliated with jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham 7 May reportedly killed five soldiers of Russian-backed fifth corps west of Malajah village; little-known group Ansar Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Brigade 10 May killed one Turkish soldier near Kafraya village. In Aleppo governorate, suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants 18 May reportedly killed eight Iran-backed militiamen in Maskanah desert. In north east, armed protesters 18 May attempted to storm base of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Shadadi town following armed group’s decision previous day to sharply raise fuel prices, leaving at least one protester dead; SDF 19 May cancelled price hike. Kurdish security forces 31 May opened fire to disperse residents protesting mandatory conscription in Manbij area, killing one. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected ISIS targets throughout month, reportedly killing at least 27 militants; suspected ISIS militants 2 May killed four govt soldiers in Palmyra countryside (centre). Israel 5 May reportedly fired missiles on Iran-linked targets in Hama and Latakia countryside (west central), killing up to eight fighters and one civilian. In possible bid to mend ties, intelligence chief General Ali Mamlouk 3 May reportedly met with Saudi counterpart in capital Damascus.