Attacks & Assassinations in South-West Syria: January – December 2020

A total of 237 attacks and 383 assassinations occurred in 2020, marking almost half of all attacks and assassinations that have occurred since the regime’s takeover of south-west Syria in July 2018. Over the past two-and-a-half years of regime control, the south-west has been plagued by increasing violence, instability and criminality. In 2020, ISIS perpetrated the highest number of attacks and assassinations, while former opposition members were the most targeted group for assassination and Air Force Intelligence points were the most targeted for attack. As long as the regime pursues its aggressive military strategy in south Syria, and continues to weaponize ISIS as a core component of this strategy, cyclic violence and instability will continue to define the situation south-west Syria.  

  • December Operations: During December 2020, 15 attacks and 22 assassinations took place in the south-west. Amidst renewed Russian efforts in December pushing the regime to settle the status of former opposition members in the area, assassinations decreased and attacks remained steady compared to the previous month.
  • Total Operations: In total, 237 attacks and 383 assassinations occurred in 2020. Since the regime’s takeover of south-west Syria in July 2018, there have been a total of 485 attacks and 684 with 49% of attacks and 56% of assassinations taking place in 2020 to date indicative of the ongoing increase in violence and instability in the south-west.
  • Targets: In 2020, Air Force Intelligence points were the most targeted by attacks, while former opposition members were the most targeted in assassination operations. Last month, almost half of all assassination operations targeted former opposition members. As criminality increases in the area, the leader of a local kidnapping gang was assassinated by the regime, resulting in retaliatory attacks against regime points by his gang members.
  • Perpetrators: ISIS cells committed the highest number of attacks and assassinations, by a known perpetrator, in 2020, including in December. The regime’s weaponization of ISIS and its proliferation in the area, led to a significant increase in ISIS-perpetrated violence in the area. Moutaz Billah Army was responsible for perpetrating the same number of assassination operations as ISIS in 2020. Assassinations perpetrated by ISIS in December predominantly targeted former opposition members, including those now working with regime forces.
  • Unknown Perpetrators: Unknown perpetrators were responsible for 25% of attacks and 30% assassinations in December. 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: Attacks and assassination operations in December 2020 occurred predominantly in Daraa al-Balad and former opposition strongholds in western Daraa.

Monthly Number of Assassinations & Attacks

Number of Assassinations & Attacks by Geographical Area