Syria Military Brief: North-East Syria – 01 July 2021

Tensions have grown in north-east Syria in recent weeks, with several instances of violence raising concerns across the area. An artillery strike originating from SDF territory landed in a civilian area of Afrin, killing at least 13 and injuring scores of others. As tensions boil between the SDF and Turkish-backed opposition factions, ISIS strikes against all conflict parties grow in frequency—with relatives of ISIS fighters languishing in squalid conditions inside the al-Hol camp as authorities move slowly to clear the camp. In addition, relations remain terse between Arab tribes and Kurdish-led authorities in north-east Syria, with protests continuing in response to allegations of SDF corruption and shortages of flour, fuel and basic goods.

Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 1st July 2021

ISIS Activity

    • Anti-SDF attacks: Suspected ISIS cells launched fived armed attacks and seven IED strikes against the SDF in Hasakah, Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, killing at least 9 SDF troops and wounding a number of others (6.6-25.6).
    • Politician attacked: Mohammed Al-Aziz, head of the Agriculture Committee of Deir Ezzor Civil Council, was seriously injured in an armed attack along the Abu Khashab Road, west of Deir Ezzor (22.6).
    • Oil tanker attacks: An IED exploded next to an oil tanker belonging to Hussam Al-Qaterji Company near Al-Rusafa area, southwest of Raqqa, followed by a second attack on the Al-Mankhar Road, east of Raqqa. (17.6, 19.6). Another fuel tanker belonging to the Al-Qaterji Company was attacked on the Al-Kharafi road, which links Hasakah and Deir Ezzor (4.6).
    • Anti-regime attacks: Two regime elements were killed in a landmine explosion in the al-Shula Badia region of Deir Ezzor (19.6). Nine regime troops died in a pair of armed attacks by suspected ISIS fighters in the Al-Mayadin desert and the town of Al-Shafa, east of Deir Ezzor (4.6, 8.6). A number of regime soldiers were also killed in an IED attack that targeted a military bus near the Mareija Al-Jamlan area on the Athriya road, west of Raqqa (8.6).
    • Threats against civilians: Suspected ISIS operatives disbursed paper leaflets in the town of Madan and surrounding villages, east of Raqqa, threatening any civilians who cooperate with the SDF (9.6).

Russian & Regime Activity

    • Russian-Turkish patrols: Russian military police forces carried out a joint patrol with the Turkish army near Ad-Darbasiyah in rural northern Hasakah province (17.6). Two days later, Russian military police carried out another patrol in the vicinity of Tell Tamer in northern Hasakah (19.6). These patrols are limited only to the east section of the Turkish-Syrian border. In early June, Russian military police conducted a joint military patrol with the Turkish army, accompanied by a helicopter flyover, in the vicinity of Ad-Darbasiyah, north of Hasakah (3.6). These patrols are limited only to the eastern section of the Syrian-Turkish border.

SDF Activity

    • SDF shelling in Afrin: Heavy artillery fire originating from the SDF-held area of Tel Rifaat bombarded the Turkish-backed rebel-held city of Afrin, striking a hospital there, killing at least 13 civilians, and injuring scores of others (16.6). While the SDF has not claimed responsibility for the attack, the shelling threatens to reignite heavier clashes between the two groups.
    • SDF raids: The SDF launched several raids on displaced persons camps around the town of Tal al-Saman, north of Raqqa (16.6), a day after arresting five in raids targeting the village of Al-Ghassaniyah and the town of Al-Karamah, east of Raqqa (15.6). Earlier raids in Raqqa city saw three locals arrested (12.6), with subsequent raids focused on several Euphrates River crossings near Al-Shheell (13.6).
    • Regime arrest: The SDF arrested one regime soldier at a checkpoint in the city of Ain Issa, north of Raqqa (7.6).
    • Forced conscription: The SDF arrested a number of young men at checkpoints across the western countryside of Raqqa for forced conscription (9.6). Others were arrested for compulsory service in the Tay neighborhood of Qamishli and in the town of Al-Jarniyah, west of Raqqa (9.6, 11.6). In the city of Al-Shaddadi, south of Hasakah, the SDF also arrested a number of teachers for conscription (12.6).
    • Detainee releases: The SDF released a man after he was arrested in the city of Raqqa for stealing a weapon from a party member (10.6). He was immediately hospitalized as a result of physical evidence of torture. Another young man was released later that week in the town of Al-Jardhi, east of Deir Ezzor, after two years of detention (13.6).

Political & Humanitarian Developments

    • Coronavirus: Over the last month weeks (1.6-28.6), the Self Administration recorded 1,628 new cases of the coronavirus across northeast Syria and counted 43 new deaths.
    • Al-Hol conditions: The al-Hol displaced persons camp in eastern Hasakah provinces continues to be a site of violence and disorder, with several camp residents killed in recent weeks. At least 59 families originating from the Sarrin and Ain al-Arab areas of the Aleppo countryside were released from the camp (2.6), while the SDF continues to undertake its plans to empty the camp with a number of international repatriations occurring in June. Although limited returns are underway, conditions in the camp remain dire, with hundreds of cases of illness and diarrhea recorded in al-Hol resulting from contaminated drinking water (12.6).
    • Al-Hol arrests: The SDF continues to carry out regular arrests and raids inside the al-Hol displaced persons camp, including a number of operations in the fifth section of the al-Hol camp (16.6). SDF forces also arrested 15 women in the camp after discovering the entrance to a tunnel dug by camp residents in a tent (17.6), with four other women of Iraqi nationality arrested on charges of carrying out anti-SDF attacks (21.6). An earlier raid saw 27 people, including nine women, arrested for investigation by SDF intelligence (7.6).
    • Protests: Protesters cut off a highway near the town of Jadid Bakara with burning tires, denouncing perceived corruption among local council members and demanding higher allocations of flour and fuel to Deir Ezzor (14.6).