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

CrisisWatch Syria

Unchanged Situation

Opposition to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) rule continued in east as Islamic State (ISIS) staged attacks, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) cracked down on protesters, and tensions surfaced among Türkiye-aligned groups.

In east, Iran-backed groups contested SDF rule, as ISIS escalated strikes. Amid months-long tensions between SDF and Arab tribes backed by govt and Iran, new militia Saraya al-Bu Shaaban 5 May joined uprising against SDF. SDF leader Mazlum Abdi same day met leaders from Baggara and al-Aqidat tribes to discuss regional security and administration. Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) killed dozens; notably, 3 May killed fifteen National Defence Forces members near al-Sukhna town, Homs province. Car bomb 10 May killed three SDF members in al-Shuhayl. ISIS ambush 21 May killed three govt soldiers in Homs province.

In north west, HTS quashed protests; rifts surfaced between Turkish-backed forces. Protests 17 May erupted across towns in Idlib province demanding release of detainees and for HTS leader Abu Mohammed al-Jolani to step down; HTS cracked down with unprecedented force, injuring 36 in Binnish city, sixteen in Idlib city, and ten in Jisr al-Shughour city. Elsewhere, clashes between factions of Turkish-backed Syrian National Army broke out: fighting between Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar Olan 7 May killed two in Al-Bab city, Aleppo province. Türkiye 10 May announced neutralising seven Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants (see Türkiye).

In south, Israel continued airstrikes. Israeli airstrike 2 May injured eight soldiers in Najha town. In response to missile launched from Nawa area towards occupied Golan Heights, Israel 5 May shelled launch area, killing govt forces member. Israeli airstrike 20 May killed at least six pro-Iran militants in Qusayr city, Homs province.

Govt appointed new loyalists to security and administrative positions. In ongoing effort to shore up control, govt 10 May appointed new heads of branches of Air Force Intelligence agency and 12 May appointed new governors in Rif Dimashq, Deir ez-Zor, Hama, and Suwayda provinces. President Assad 16 May attended 33rd Arab League Summit in Bahrain and discussed inter-Arab cooperation in meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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In The News

30 Apr 2024
International reporting on the Middle East is focused on the Gaza war…, which has further reduced the visibility of the Syrian conflict. Arab News

Nanar Hawach

Senior Analyst, Syria
18 Jul 2023
Banks are hesitant to change their banking operations [in Syria] when they know that permissions could expire imminently. The National

Delaney Simon

Senior Analyst, U.S. Program
31 May 2023
Turkey is highly unlikely to compromise on troop withdrawal [from northern Syria]. Reuters

Dareen Khalifa

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

Anna Jacobs

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

Anna Jacobs

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

Dina Esfandiary

Senior Advisor, Middle East and North Africa

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Nanar Hawach

Senior Analyst, Syria

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