CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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December 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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).

November 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

October 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

September 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

August 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

July 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

June 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

May 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

April 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

March 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

February 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

January 2022

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

December 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

November 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

October 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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”.

September 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

August 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

July 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

June 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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”.

May 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

April 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

March 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Country marked 10 years since uprising as Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces clashed in north east, Idlib attacks strained Russia-Turkey ceasefire, and govt forces fought former opposition in south west. In north east, Turkish-backed armed groups and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 16-17 and 19-21 March clashed in Ain Issa countryside, reportedly prompting Turkey to launch airstrike – its first in 17 months in north east – on Saida village 20 March. In Idlib province in north west, March 2020 ceasefire largely continued to hold despite reported Russian airstrikes. Notably, regime forces 5 March launched rocket on Bzapour town, reportedly killing three civilians; Russian airstrike 21 March reportedly targeted Sarmada city and suspected Russian missile attack same day struck Qah city near refugee camp. Turkey 25 March said it had agreed with Russia to “take measures to hold ceasefire” in Idlib province. In Aleppo governorate, suspected Russian missile attacks 5 March reportedly killed four near Jarablus and al-Bab cities. Russian artillery 21 March hit hospital in rebel-held Atareb city west of Aleppo, reportedly killing at least six civilians and wounding 16 others, including 5 health workers. In Daraa province in south west, amid govt efforts to reassert security control, gunmen loyal to former opposition commander known as Abu Tariq Al-Subaihi 16 March ambushed govt troops who sought to capture him; 21 soldiers and unknown number of gunmen killed. In central desert, Russia continued to launch airstrikes against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets throughout month, notably killing dozens of militants 6-16 March. In Deir Ez-Zor province, ISIS reportedly killed nine Iran-backed militiamen 12, 21 March in al-Mayadin area. To mark tenth anniversary of 2011 uprising, thousands took to streets in Idlib city 15 March and hundreds reportedly gathered in Daraa city 18 March, chanting anti-regime slogans. UK, France, Germany, Italy and U.S. 15 March issued joint statement renewing commitment to holding regime accountable for its crimes. United Arab Emirates 9 March called for reinstatement of Syria in Arab League. Israel next day reportedly launched missiles on Iran-linked targets in southern outskirts of Damascus.

February 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Russia brokered deal to end standoff between regime and Kurdish-led forces in north east while Islamic State (ISIS) continued attacks in central desert. In north east, following Jan clashes between govt and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), both sides 2 Feb agreed to Russian-mediated deal; according to agreement, SDF lifts siege imposed on regime-controlled neighbourhoods in Qamishli and Hassakeh cities, and regime reinstates supply lines to Kurdish-populated areas near Aleppo. In central desert, ISIS attacks 3, 8, 23 and 24 Feb killed over 50 regime and pro-regime security personnel; ISIS 9 Feb reportedly killed four SDF fighters in Abu Khashab desert in Deir Ez-Zor province. Amid attacks, Russia 8 Feb evacuated military positions in Al-Taym oil field, and 19-20 and 23 Feb launched airstrikes killing at least 30 ISIS fighters in Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa provinces. Following regime’s military buildup around Tafas town in western Daraa province, regime and former opposition forces 8 Feb agreed to halt hostilities in Russian-brokered deal. In Idlib province, members of al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Tawhid 7 Feb attacked Russian headquarters near Kafr Nabl city, killing one senior Russian officer and ten Syrian soldiers. Jihadist rebel group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham continued crackdown on rival groups: 7-8 Feb reportedly killed Turkish jihadist and former member of al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Din; 11 Feb detained senior Hurras al-Din member. U.S. airstrikes 25 Feb targeted “infrastructure utilised by Iranian-backed militant groups” in Deir Ez-Zor province in retaliation for rocket attacks in Iraq (see Iraq). After fifth round of Constitutional Committee talks aimed at drafting new constitution failed to make progress in Jan, head of opposition Syrian Negotiations Commission Nasr al-Hariri 3 Feb accused regime of playing for time until it can retake control militarily. Turkey, Russia and Iran 16-17 Feb held 15th round of Astana talks in Russian city Sochi. Syria and Israel 18 Feb concluded Russian-mediated prisoner exchange involving release of Israeli woman and two Syrian shepherds. Israel 3 Feb reportedly launched airstrikes on govt troops and Iran-linked targets in Quneitra province in south, 15 and 28 Feb reportedly struck targets on outskirts of capital Damascus.

January 2021

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

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.

December 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Fighting escalated between rival armed groups in north east, Russia-Turkey tensions persisted in Idlib, and Islamic State (ISIS) continued deadly assaults. Clashes erupted between Turkish-backed groups and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in and around city of Ain Issa: Turkish-backed forces 6 Dec carried out artillery attacks on Ain Issa and nearby villages, wounding at least nine civilians, including two children. Although Russia and SDF 8 Dec reached agreement over redeployment of military units and establishment of three Russian observation posts near Ain Issa, Turkish-backed forces 11, 13 and 14 Dec launched ground assaults targeting SDF positions, and mutual shelling continued. Russia 27 Dec confirmed deployment of additional military units to Ain Issa. Elsewhere in north east, protesters 8, 9 and 15 Dec took to streets in SDF-controlled parts of Deir Ez-Zor city to protest against deteriorating living conditions and high cost of fuel. In Idlib in north west, Turkey withdrew from observation points in regime-controlled territory, while setting up new ones in rebel-controlled parts of province and further strengthening position in Jabal al-Zawiya area near M4 highway throughout month. Militants 29 Dec reportedly wounded three Russian soldiers on patrol near Trumba in Idlib province. Meanwhile, ISIS 2-13 Dec launched series of attacks in Deir Ez-Zor, Homs and Hama cities, killing at least 29 pro-regime fighters and injuring 25 others; in retaliation, Russian forces in coordination with regime forces mid-Dec launched over 170 airstrikes in central desert, reportedly killing 37 ISIS members. ISIS 30 Dec claimed responsibility for attack that killed nearly 40 regime soldiers in eastern Syria. Russian forces 11 Dec conducted joint patrol in Golan Heights, Quneitra province, and established five observation points along disengagement line with Israel. U.S. govt 7 Dec designated rebel group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham among “Entities of Particular Concern”; 22 Dec sanctioned Central Bank, close aide to President Assad and several of first lady’s UK-based relatives. Alleged Israeli airstrikes 4 Dec hit Iran-linked sites in Raqqa city and 6 Dec killed three pro-Iran militants in Deir Ez-Zor province. Govt 24 Dec reported Israeli missiles over western Hama countryside.

November 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Tensions continued to mount in Idlib, Islamic State (ISIS) launched series of attacks and clashes broke out between govt forces and local fighters. In north west, amid rising tensions with Russia following last month’s military escalation, Turkish troops 8-10 Nov withdrew from Marhatat post on Aleppo-Damascus road and Anadan post in Aleppo governorate, citing Russian harassment of resupply convoys and regime-led protests outside posts; Turkish military 2-21 Nov fortified position in Jabal al-Zawiya mountain near M4 highway. Regime forces 8-9 Nov shelled Turkish positions in Jabal al-Zawiya and Saraqib city. Regime shelling of rebel-held areas also persisted, 4 Nov killing at least seven in marked escalation; rebels same day killed three in apparent retaliation. In sign of continuing crackdown on rival groups, rebel group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham 3 Nov stormed Ahrar al-Sham headquarters in Jabal al-Zawiya, Idlib governorate (northwest). Meanwhile, ISIS attacks on Turkish-controlled Aleppo governorate increased: ISIS 4 Nov claimed IED explosion that killed Turkish-backed group Faylaq al-Sham soldier in al-Bab city; ISIS 7 Nov detonated IED in al-Bab, killing three policemen. In north east, in Hasakah province, ISIS 1 Nov claimed responsibility for killing of Kurdish Internal Security Forces in Markadeh village. In Deir Ez-Zor province, ISIS-affiliated cells 9 Nov killed four near al-Mayadin; roadside IED 20 Nov killed five fighters from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Clashes between regime forces and ISIS in central desert 26-28 Nov killed at least 29 regime soldiers and 30 militants. Meanwhile, also in north west, Kurdish-led SDF 23-24 Nov clashed with Turkish-backed forces in Ain Issa, north of Raqqa city, killing dozens of Turkey-backed fighters, and local militias 8 Nov took control of al-Masakin checkpoint in north-western Daraa, allegedly killing five regime soldiers.  In south east, amid govt attempts to improve its control, govt forces clashed with local fighters; authorities 8 Nov arrested a dozen people during clashes in Daraa city. Damascus 11-12 Nov hosted conference on refugee return; Russia pledged $1bn for reconstruction. Alleged Israeli airstrikes 15-22 Nov and shelling 25 Nov killed at least 27 pro-Iran militants.

October 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

In Idlib, rebel group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) clashed with rival jihadist groups and Russia resumed airstrikes, while regime forces clashed with Islamic State (ISIS) in east and assassinations targeted opposition leaders in south west. In north west, jihadist rebel group HTS 5-19 Oct continued to launch crackdown on rival groups: HTS arrested at least 30 al-Qaeda-backed Hurras al-Din members in Idlib province, including senior commander; HTS security operation 10 Oct killed ten ISIS fighters in Talada area; HTS 12 Oct killed 13 ISIS members in western Aleppo countryside, and ISIS same day killed two HTS militants in al-Mastouma, Idlib province. Meanwhile, Russia 17 Oct renewed airstrikes on jihadist positions in Idlib after month-long hiatus, escalating to highest daily strike tally since March ceasefire on 20 Oct; suspected Russian air raids 26 Oct targeted military training camp of Turkey-backed Failaq al-Sham, reportedly killing dozens. Simultaneous rebel attacks in Idlib, Hama, Latakia, and Aleppo 27 Oct reportedly killed 15 regime soldiers. U.S. drone attack on Idlib’s Salqin city 22 Oct killed 23, including 17 militants allegedly linked with Hurras al-Din. Large number of wildfires 9 Oct broke out in forests along Syrian coast, killing at least three and displacing as many as 25,000. In Aleppo governorate, two explosions in Turkish-controlled al-Bab 4-6 Oct killed at least 16. In north east, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council 5 Oct issued blanket amnesty to all 25,000 Syrians in al-Hol camp, which holds displaced people and families of suspected ISIS fighters. In Deir Ez-Zor and Hama countryside, fierce battles persisted between regime forces and ISIS fighters; heaviest day of fighting 17 Oct in Deir Ez-Zor saw 37 killed on both sides. In south west, wave of assassinations continued against former opposition leaders who reconciled with regime: unidentified gunmen 1-14 Oct killed at least five former opposition leaders; notably, death of commander Adham al-Karad 14 Oct constituted highest-profile killing since regime takeover of Daraa and is set to dent efforts by former opposition leaders to consolidate power in area. In first attack since mid-Sept, alleged Israeli strikes 21 Oct hit Iran-linked targets in al-Quneitra province. 

September 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Ceasefire in north west faced new strains, jihadist group Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) sought to consolidate control in Idlib, and Islamic State (ISIS) stepped up deadly attacks. In north west, March ceasefire continued to hold despite daily shelling in southern Idlib and western Aleppo countryside; Russia 25 Sept conducted some 30 airstrikes in opposition-controlled areas, marking highest uptick in strikes since ceasefire. Following late-Aug attacks on Russian-Turkish patrols along M4 highway by unidentified assailants, Russian and Turkish forces 1 Sept held joint military trainings; Russia 15 Sept however declined participation in joint patrol, triggering speculation of impasse between countries over Idlib; Turkish FM 16 Sept described meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials as not “fruitful” while Russian FM Lavrov 21 Sept assured patrolling “would resume soon”. In Idlib, jihadist rebel group HTS reportedly cracked down on rival factions: group early Sept detained French jihadist Omar Omsen and members of rival faction Hizb al-Tahrir; alleged U.S. drone 14 Sept killed two senior commanders of Hurras al-Din – jihadist group competing with HTS – in move likely to aid HTS consolidation in Idlib city; HTS 27 Sept killed two Iraqi ISIS senior commanders in Salqin, Idlib. Confrontations between ISIS militants and regime persisted in area between Aleppo, Hama and Raqqa, raising concerns of jihadist resurgence: fighting first week of Sept killed 48 regime soldiers and 22 ISIS fighters; ISIS militants 7 Sept took control of Doubayat gas field in Homs briefly before Russian forces regained control; heavy fighting between Syrian Army and ISIS in Raqqa province 19-22 Sept reportedly killed at least 64 on both sides. In south west, high-profile assassinations targeted regime: unknown gunmen 1 Sept reportedly killed Syrian Arab Army 5th Corps leader Abdel Salam al-Masri; unknown assailants 2 Sept killed govt officer in Nawa; alleged ISIS assassinations against regime-affiliated senior figures continued, 10-15 Sept killing at least six military commanders. In north east, U.S. Central Command 18 Sept announced additional force deployments following collision last month with Russian military vehicles. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes 3, 11 Sept struck Iran-linked targets near Iraqi border and Aleppo, respectively. 

August 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Clashes in Idlib further strained March ceasefire, while skirmishes allegedly broke out between U.S. forces on one side and govt and Russian troops on another in north east. In north west, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants 3 Aug reportedly fended off govt attack in Latakia province, killing 12 soldiers; four HTS and two other rebel fighters killed. Rebel groups 11 Aug reportedly repelled govt offensive in Jabal al-Zawiya in southern Idlib. Russia 3 Aug reportedly carried out airstrikes against rebel-held parts of Latakia and Idlib provinces, killing three civilians near Binnish town north of Idlib; 18 Aug bombed near camps housing displaced persons in Harbanoush and Sheikh Bahr Nahr areas, Idlib province. IEDs 14 and 17 Aug struck joint Russian-Turkish patrols along M4 highway, and joint patrol 25 Aug came under fire, no casualties reported; Kataib Khattab Al-Shishani, unknown group suspected to be composed of militants from Caucasus, claimed responsibility for 17 Aug attack. In north east, U.S. forces on joint patrol with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 17 Aug returned fire against Syrian regime checkpoint near Tal Al-Zahab, reportedly killing one govt soldier; U.S. forces later same day claimed patrol had come under fire from checkpoint’s vicinity. Intermittent clashes continued between Turkish-backed forces and SDF along fronts dividing “Euphrates Shield” area from Manbij and “Peace Spring” area from the SDF-held north east. Russian military convoy 26 Aug reportedly rammed into U.S. armoured vehicle during altercation near Derik, allegedly injuring four U.S. soldiers. In east, following spate of killings of prominent Arab tribe figures late July, suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants 2 Aug killed prominent sheikh of al-Aqaidat tribe in Deir al-Zour, prompting some Arab tribe members 4 Aug to protests against SDF whom they held responsible, killing two SDF fighters in clashes same day. Also in Deir al-Zour, roadside bomb 18 Aug killed one Russian general. In south west, Israel 2 Aug killed four unidentified militants along fence between Syria and occupied Golan Heights, next day launched air raids on Syrian army installations in Quneitra. U.S. 20 Aug sanctioned six senior Syrian regime officials and leaders of Syrian military units.

July 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Militant attack and Russian airstrikes in north west strained March ceasefire, while President Bashar al-Assad’s Baath Party won parliamentary elections. In north west, Russia and Turkey 22 July conducted 22nd joint patrol since March, for first time along entire 70km route following M4 highway. After 1 and 7 July joint Russian-Turkish patrols, IED attack in southern part of de-escalation zone 14 July wounded three Russian and several Turkish soldiers; Kataib Khattab Al-Shishani, unknown group suspected to be composed of militants from Caucasus, claimed responsibility for attack. In retaliation, Russia 14 July carried out more than a dozen airstrikes on rebel-held parts of Idlib and Latakia provinces, reportedly wounding five. Russian airstrikes 15 July reportedly killed one civilian and injured at least ten, including children, in Turkish-controlled Al-Bab city. Fighting 25-29 July intensified between govt and jihadists in Jabal al-Zawiya in southern Idlib. Vehicle-borne IED 19 July reportedly killed eight and wounded 77 near the Bab al-Salama border crossing; separate IED same day injured at least 13 in the centre of Afrin. Turkish defence ministry 26 July accused Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) of bomb attack same day in Ras al-Ayn's city centre in north east that reportedly killed five. Health authorities 10 July reported first COVID-19 case in Idlib province. Amid collapsing economy and U.S. sanctions in June, President Assad’s Baath Party and coalition won 19 July parliamentary elections, third election since civil war erupted in 2011; opposition Syrian National Coalition described election as “theatrical”. Iranian state media 10 July announced reinforcement of Syria’s air defence system as part of new military cooperation agreement. Israel 20 July reportedly launched air raids on suspected Iranian and Iran-linked targets south of capital Damascus; five members of Iran-backed militia killed, and dozen more wounded, including seven govt soldiers. In response to alleged mortar fire on occupied Golan Heights, Israel 24 July struck Syrian army targets in south. UN Security Council 11 July voted to resume cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria through one border crossing from Turkey. UN 24 July announced 24 Aug meeting of Constitutional Committee comprising representatives of govt, opposition and civil society.

June 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Cross-line assaults between jihadist and govt forces early June continued to strain Idlib ceasefire, while economic crisis sparked protests in south and intra-Kurdish negotiation in north east yielded preliminary agreement. In Idlib, fighting between al-Qaeda linked group Hurras al-Din and govt positions in Sahl Al Ghab area 8 June left 19 govt soldiers and 22 militants dead. Russian fighter jets next day delivered the first confirmed airstrikes on Idlib since Russia-Turkey ceasefire was agreed in March; Turkey next day condemned govt’s alleged increasing provocations; Turkish President Erdoğan and Russian President Putin 10 June discussed tensions in Syria. Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey 16 June conducted longest patrol (40km) to date along M4 highway, fourth during June, bringing total patrols to 17 since March. In north east, Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Kurdish National Council (KNC), umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish opposition parties, 16 June announced initial agreement aimed at “Kurdish unity”, agreeing that 2014 Dohuk Agreement on governance and defence should form basis for ongoing dialogue. Islamic State (ISIS) detainees in provincial capital Hassakeh 29 June staged riot against People's Protection Units (YPG) guards, demanding fair trial and family visits. Amid worsening economic crisis, hundreds of protesters 7-15 June in Sweida in south west demonstrated against soaring food prices and govt corruption; clashes 15 June erupted between pro-govt protesters and anti-govt demonstrators before security forces arrested at least eight. President Assad 11 June dismissed PM Khamis, reportedly in bid to placate protesters. Moscow 30 June announced 1 July videoconference on Astana settlement with Turkey and Iran. Israel reportedly launched numerous airstrikes on suspected Iranian and Iran-linked targets: 4 June in centre, reportedly killing ninepeople; 23-24 June in south, east and centre killing two govt soldiers; 27-28 June near border with Iraq reportedly killing fifteen members of pro-Iranian militias. U.S. govt 17 June rolled out new sanctions against individuals and organisations under Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, including President Assad, Iranian militia, and division of Syrian army. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator 29 June asked UN Security Council to extend authorisation to deliver cross-border aid through Turkey ahead of 10 July expiration.

May 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Jihadist attack on govt forces threatened Idlib ceasefire while Russia and Turkey continued joint patrols in effort to uphold deal; Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) pursued rapprochement with rival Kurdish parties in north east. In Idlib, al-Qaeda linked group Hurras al-Din 10 May attacked govt forces in northern Hama and seized control of al-Manara village in severest cross-line attack since 5 March ceasefire implemented. Meanwhile, following a number of attempts to conduct joint patrols along M4 highway in April, Russia and Turkey conducted five patrols a few kilometres along highway on 5, 7, 12, 14 and 20 May, bringing total patrols to twelve since deal announced in March; IED attack 27 May killed Turkish soldier during patrol along M4 highway. In north east, YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdish National Council (KNC), umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish opposition parties, resumed intra-Kurdish talks endorsed by U.S. and France, aimed at more inclusive governance in SDF-held areas; previous U.S. and French-backed initiatives failed. U.S. state department delegation, led by Deputy Special Envoy to Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS William Roebuck, reportedly met with YPG and KNC representatives in early May in show of support for process. Israel early May reportedly launched numerous airstrikes on Iranian and Iran-linked targets; Syrian army 4 May claimed Israel launched airstrikes on military barracks in al-Safirah in eastern Aleppo province. ISIS detainees in prison compound in provincial capital Hassakeh 2 May rebelled against YPG guards and briefly seized control of prison floor. Seven ISIS militants 17 May escaped from prison near al-Hol detention camp; SDF same day announced three were recaptured. Public rift erupted within Assad family and govt 19 May ordered seizure of assets belonging to Rami Makhlouf, President Bashar al-Assad's cousin and one of Syria’s wealthiest businessmen; govt previously requested 134bn Syrian pounds ($261mn) in taxes allegedly owed by Makhlouf-owned mobile phone company Syriatel.

April 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Islamic State (ISIS) launched one of its deadliest attacks in Homs governorate since Dec 2019, leaving eighteen govt forces killed, while Turkey and Russia enforced March ceasefire in Idlib. ISIS militants 9 April attacked govt military positions in desert town of Al-Sukhna in Homs region formerly held by jihadist group; eighteen govt forces and eleven ISIS militants killed. Pro-govt fighters with Russian air support reportedly attempted to halt militants’ advance after attackers captured parts of town. In north west Idlib province, Turkey and Russia 15 April attempted fourth joint patrol along M4 highway in effort to uphold 5 March ceasefire after three previous patrols since 15 March were fully or partially obstructed by local protesters; Russia and Turkey conducted fifth and sixth joint patrols in area on 25 April and 28 April, respectively. Unclaimed truck bomb attack in northern town of Afrin 28 April killed at least 40 civilians; Turkey same day blamed Kurdish-led People’s Protection Forces (YPG), which 28 April denied carrying out attack. Meanwhile, Turkey continued military reinforcements in Idlib. Syrian authorities maintained or extended measures to slow COVID-19 spread in govt-controlled areas, including stay at home order, daily curfew and suspension of schools, universities and Friday prayers. In north east, first reported COVID-19 case 17 April raised fears of possible wider outbreak in region amid limited medical equipment. Govt 20 April said it intercepted Israeli missiles over Palmyra in Homs; govt 27 April said Israel conducted airstrikes on military airfield near capital Damascus.

March 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Turkey and Russia agreed temporary ceasefire in Idlib province in north west halting most fighting and freezing regime offensive toward Idlib city, but jihadist attack on Turkish convoy in Idlib sparked clash between jihadists and rebels; from mid-March authorities took measures to slow spread of COVID-19. Turkish President Erdoğan and Russian President Putin met in Moscow 5 March and agreed to halt hostilities in Idlib along current front lines, allowing Syrian regime forces to keep control over areas taken during offensives in Feb and remain within striking distance of Idlib city. Deal includes creation of “security corridor” running along M4 highway between Latakia and Aleppo and extending 6km either side and launch of joint Turkish-Russian patrols along highway. Protesters 15 and 23 March forced joint patrols to turn around. Pro-opposition media 19 March reported that al-Qaeda aligned group Hurras al-Din attacked Turkish forces on M4 highway; attack sparked clashes between militants of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and unidentified group along road. Turkish Defence Ministry confirmed earlier rocket attack by unnamed “radical group” along M4 highway killed two Turkish soldiers. In response to COVID-19 crisis, President Assad 14 March postponed parliamentary elections scheduled for 13 April to 20 May and closed schools, mosques and several public offices; govt 23 March also closed border with Lebanon. In north west, Turkish-aligned opposition authorities Syrian Interim Govt took steps mid-March to slow and monitor spread of COVID-19 and opened three quarantine centres. In north east, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) 23 March closed all crossings into govt-controlled territory to reduce COVID-19 spread; 24 March endorsed UN Sec-Gen’s call for humanitarian ceasefire to combat virus. Islamic State (ISIS) detainees 29-30 March rioted in prison in Hasakah city; militants gained control of areas of prison and attempted to break out. SDF 30 March reported four escaped detainees had been captured. Govt 31 March announced interception of Israeli missiles targeting Al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province (centre).

February 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Deadly fighting escalated in Idlib province in north west between Russian-backed regime forces on one side and rebels and Turkish troops on other; political wing of Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) held talks with govt and in south Israeli airstrikes killed over twenty govt troops and members of pro-Iranian militias. In north west, regime forces’ artillery fire and Russian airstrikes killed total of eighteen Turkish soldiers and three Turkish civilian contractors early Feb; in retaliatory strikes, Turkish forces killed thirteen Syrian soldiers. Regime forces 7 Feb captured strategic town of Saraqib, bypassing and encircling four Turkish military observation posts; rebel forces recaptured town 26 Feb. Turkish President Erdoğan 10 Feb gave Syrian regime until end of Feb to withdraw behind Turkish observation posts and in later statements threatened direct military action. Turkish-backed rebels 20 Feb launched offensive along strategic M4 highway. Suspected regime airstrike 27 Feb killed 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib province; Turkey said its retaliatory strikes next day killed over 300 regime soldiers. Regime and Russian airstrikes targeting schools and nurseries 25 Feb killed 21 civilians in Idlib city and surrounding area. NGO Syrian Network for Human Rights said 276 civilians killed in Syria in Feb. In north east, having reached agreement with SDF, coalition of Syrian Kurdish parties Kurdish National Council (KNC) 2 Feb announced that reopening of its offices in SDF-held territory. Syrian Democratic Council, SDF’s political wing, 9 Feb confirmed its delegation had travelled to capital Damascus to begin Russian-mediated talks with regime centred on formation of autonomous local administrations in Kurdish-majority areas in north east. In south, Israeli airstrikes 6 Feb reportedly killed over twenty govt soldiers and pro-Iranian militants near Damascus. Israeli airstrikes in Damascus area 23 Feb killed four pro-Iranian fighters and two members of Palestinian group Islamic Jihad.

January 2020

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Govt forces with Russian air support continued to advance into rebel-held Idlib province in north west killing hundreds of civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands raising risk that Turkey responds with force against govt troops in coming weeks; in north east and east fighting between Turkey and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) subsided, but Islamic State (ISIS) upped operations against SDF and govt forces. In north west, govt and Russian forces continued aerial bombardments in Idlib province throughout month, notably govt bombardment on Idlib city 15 Jan killed nineteen civilians. Govt offensive in area south of Maarat al Numan 16 Jan left at least 26 rebel fighters and 29 govt soldiers dead; govt 28 Jan regained control of town. Russian airstrikes 21 Jan killed over 40 civilians in rural Idlib province. State media 22 Jan claimed rebel shelling of western neighbourhoods of Aleppo city killed three civilians. Turkish President Erdoğan 29 Jan criticised Russia for not abiding by its commitments under Sochi and Astana accords in Idlib. UN same day said violence in Idlib province had displaced nearly 390,000 in past two months. Amid rising number of displaced persons, Erdoğan 31 Jan expressed concern at new threats near Turkey’s border and said Turkey ready to take necessary steps including using military force in Syria. In north east, in Raqqa ISIS mid-Jan carried out first open attack against govt forces since 2017, killing one soldier. In east, ISIS 2 Jan claimed responsibility for attack on SDF checkpoint in Abu Hamam, Deir al-Zour province that killed nine SDF troops. Govt 14 Jan said ISIS attack in Badia region of Deir al-Zour killed four soldiers. Russian President Putin visited President Assad in Damascus 7 Jan to discuss military situation. UN Security Council 10 Jan voted to renew resolution 2165 mandating cross-border aid into Syria, reauthorising delivery through two crossings between Turkey and Syria (Bab al Salameh and Bab al Haweh crossings) for another twelve months, but discontinuing delivery through crossings at al-Ramtha (from Jordan) and Al Yarubiyah (from Iraq).

December 2019

Middle East & North Africa

Syria

Regime and Russian forces intensified airstrikes and ground offensive in north west taking ground from rebels. In north west, regime forces 1 Dec launched ground assault to retake territory they lost previous month. Regime and Russian airstrikes continued to target rebel-held areas in Idlib; Russian airstrikes and barrel bombs 8 Dec killed 21 civilians. Regime and Russian airstrikes on villages in Maarat al-Numan district, Idlib province 17 Dec killed 24 civilians. State news 22 Dec reported regime forces had retaken around twenty villages in Maarat al-Numan district. UN 27 Dec said regime offensive had displaced over 235,000 civilians in Dec. In north east, Turkey 8 Dec struck deal with Russia to connect areas under control of Turkish-backed Syrian forces to regime-controlled power plant and to withdraw Turkish-backed Syrian National Army and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from M4 highway. Insecurity persisted in areas under control of Turkish-backed forces; car bombing in Al-Mabrukah in Hasakah province 18 Dec killed five civilians, and landmine at Tel Abyad border crossing in Raqqa province same day killed four. Car bombing 23 Dec killed eight in Turkish-controlled village of Suluk near Tel Abyad. Airstrikes of unknown origin 7 and 25 Dec killed ten pro-Iranian fighters in Deir al-Zour province in east; Lebanese Shia group Hizbollah blamed Israel for 25 Dec attack. Delegates from Russia, Turkey and Iran 10 Dec met in Kazakhstan for 14th round of talks on Syria, with focus on how UN-sponsored Constitutional Committee can overcome impasse in drafting new constitution; talks made no progress. U.S. Congress 17 Dec passed Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act enabling U.S. govt to sanction any person or entity engaging in economic activity with Syrian regime.

November 2019

Middle East & North Africa