Attacks & Assassinations in South-West Syria – 28 February 2021

Over the month of February 2021, 37 assassination operations and 17 attacks took place. Both decreased in comparison to the previous month as the regime’s military escalation on Tafas ended through a negotiated settlement. There were notably a high number of assassination operations targeting civilians over the last month, in addition to a string of attacks by 4th Division Security Bureau members on one of its own groups over questions on their loyalty. Furthermore, while ISIS cells have perpetrated the highest number of assassinations since the beginning of the year, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham was responsible for carrying out the most assassination operations in February. The trends of the previous month reflect the increasingly chaotic security environment in south Syria, characterized by the growing presence of extremist groups and violent rivalries.
  • February Operations: There were 17 attacks and 37 assassinations in February 2021. Both attacks and assassinations decreased in comparison to the previous month, mainly due to negotiations ending the regime’s escalation on Tafas, with an agreement reached in late February.
  • Total Operations: In total, 530 attacks and 760 assassinations have occurred between July 2018 – February 2021. Attacks against regime points have continued to increase, correlating with the regime’s aggressive security policies. The increase in assassinations reflects the chaotic security environment, defined by the regime’s retribution against former opposition members and local rivalries.
  • Targets: Former opposition members are the most targeted group in assassination operations since the beginning of 2021, while Air Force Intelligence points have been the most targeted in attacks. Notably, more than 25% of assassination operations over the last month targeted civilians for various reasons, including accusations of being regime collaborators or drug dealers, and former opposition activists.
  • Perpetrators: ISIS cells and affiliated actors committed the highest number of assassinations by a known perpetrator since the beginning of this year. However, in February, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) carried out the highest number of assassination operations targeting a local drug dealer, a Hezbollah recruiter and the local mukhtar (i.e. local administrative officials) in two different towns.
  • Unknown Perpetrators: Unknown perpetrators were responsible for 30% of attacks and 42% of assassinations in February. Some of these operations are carried out against regime points and figures using the phrase the “popular resistance.” This phrase does not denote a coherent movement, but is an expression of the pervasive popular anger against the regime’s oppressive military policies in the area.
  • Locations: Most attacks in February 2021 took place in western and northern Daraa, while a high number of assassination operations were concentrated in Daraa al-Balad.

Monthly Number of Assassinations & Attacks

Number of Assassinations & Attacks by Geographical Area