Attacks & Assassinations in South-West Syria – 28 July 2022

To date, 277 assassinations and 68 attacks have been carried out in south Syria since the beginning of 2022. Of those, 165 assassinations and 45 attacks occurred between April and June, indicative of the growing chaos and violence plaguing south Syria. Assassinations, rather than attacks, experienced a major increase during the second quarter of 2022, pointing to the ease with which targeted killings can be carried out in the area. Whether motivated by local grievances, personal disagreements or contracted hits against specific individuals, assassination operations have become the means to deal with matters in the south. Rising numbers of assassination operations targeting regime and Hezbollah-affiliated figures have made the regime uneasy in the south and led to the regime threatening military escalations against restive local communities in recent months. However, within this chaotic security environment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern either the perpetrators or motivations behind the violence.

Key Findings

  • Operations: Between April and June 2022, 165 assassinations and 45 attacks occurred in south Syria, a significant increase from early 2022. The uptick in assassinations during this reporting period is indicative of the region’s deterioration into further chaos, with various actors increasingly able to carry out assassination operations with relative ease and growing numbers of “guns-for-hire,” irrespective of their affiliations, operating in the south. Targeted killings are also becoming the primary means for settling matters, whether personal disagreements, disputes over drugs smuggling or retaliatory tensions between security actors. A total of 277 assassinations and 68 attacks have been carried out so far in 2022.
  • Targets: Former opposition members, most of them reconciled with the regime, remained the most targeted group for assassinations between April and June 2022, comprising 47% of all assassination operations during this period. In an increasingly concerning trend, 25% of all those targeted for assassination were civilians. Civilians targeted during this period included locals accused of working as drug dealers, regime collaborators, members of municipal councils and settlement committees, individuals involved in tribal disputes, but also those civilians with no known affiliations. In terms of attacks, regime patrols and then, checkpoints, were the main targets.
  • Perpetrators: During the second quarter of 2022, ISIS cells were responsible for almost 25% of all assassination operations, while regime forces were responsible for approximately 18% of assassinations during the same period. It is noticeable that the reporting period saw aggressive targeting of regime and Hezbollah-affiliated figures, although there is no single discernible perpetrator responsible for this trend. In terms of attacks, ISIS was responsible for carrying out one-third of all attacks during the second quarter.
  • Unknown Perpetrators: Over one-third of all assassinations and half of all attacks during the second quarter of 2022 were carried out by unknown perpetrators. As violence and chaos in the south become further entrenched amid a growing number of power struggles, competing interests and reprisals, it is becomingly increasingly difficult to discern the responsible parties and motivations behind assassinations and attacks.
  • Locations: Western Daraa remains the epicenter of most of the violence in the south, however, over the second quarter, a number of significant operations were carried out in regime strongholds in eastern Daraa, such as Izraa.
Attacks & Assassinations in SW Syria