Attacks & Assassinations in South-West Syria: October – 29 November 2020
A total of 23 attacks and 35 assassination operations were carried out in October 2020, increasing the totals for 2020 to 207 attacks and 330 assassinations. In mid-October, a Hezbollah affiliated group assassinated five former opposition commanders, including prominent former opposition commander Adham al-Akrad, as they were returning to Daraa from Damascus after a meeting with the head of Military Intelligence. While these assassinations are in line with the regime’s systematic targeting of former opposition figures in spite of the settlement process, Akrad’s killing provoked widespread anger and demonstrations against the regime. Following the assassinations, there was an upsurge in attacks against regime points across the province, reflective of the cyclic violence provoked by the regime’s targeting of local figures and violations of the settlement agreement.
- October Operations: There were 23 attacks and 35 assassinations in south-west Syria over October 2020. Assassinations slightly decreased in comparison to the previous month, although October saw the targeting of prominent former opposition commanders causing outrage across the south-west. The number of attacks against regime points increased compared to the previous month, with the majority of attacks occurring after the assassinations of the former opposition commanders.
- Total Operations: Since January 2020, there have been 207 attacks and 330 assassinations. Following the regime’s takeover of south-west Syria in July 2018, there have been a total of 455 attacks and 631 assassinations over the two-year period. More than 40% of attacks and almost 50% of assassinations since the regime’s takeover have occurred in 2020 to date indicative of the increasing violence and instability in south-west Syria.
- Targets: Almost half of all assassination operations in October 2020 targeted former opposition members. In addition, a number of assassination operations targeted civilians with loose connections to the former opposition, including a health worker who had once served in an opposition medical point prior to the regime’s July 2018 takeover of the area.
- Perpetrators: ISIS cells committed the highest number of attacks and assassinations, by a known perpetrator, during October. ISIS-perpetrated assassinations targeted mostly former opposition members, while ISIS-perpetrated attacks targeted regime points. ISIS cells are simultaneously carrying out their own agenda, while a number of ISIS cells are weaponized by the regime for its purposes. Overall, ISIS activity across the south-west continues to increase as cells proliferate across the area.
- Unknown Perpetrators: Unknown perpetrators were responsible for almost half of the attacks and assassinations in October. 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 the pervasive popular anger against the regime’s oppressive military policies in the area involving the targeting of the former opposition, punitive security measures and the deprivation of public services.
- Locations: Assassination operations continued to occur predominantly in Daraa al-Balad and former opposition strongholds in western Daraa. Attacks in October 2020 also occurred predominantly in western Daraa and Quneitra.