Syria Military Brief: North-East Syria – 07 September 2022
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is in desperate need of additional fighters, as it struggles to reinforce vulnerable positions along its northern territorial border with Operation Peace Spring areas, amidst the continued threat of invasion from Ankara and intensifying daily shelling from both Turkey and its proxy forces in the region. This shortage in manpower is accelerating a surge in forced recruitment by the SDF, which has detained growing numbers of young men at checkpoints. This practice is also prompting a fierce backlash from families who are increasingly leading protests against forced recruitment and arbitrary detention, primarily of men, in SDF prisons. This along with deteriorating living conditions is compounding anger against the group, and strengthening protest movements by other segments of society, such as taxi drivers targeting corruption within the fuel administration, and tribal constituencies that fear the SDF’s perceived drift towards closer cooperation with the Assad regime.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 7th September 2022
- Artillery shelling: In response to Turkish attacks, the SDF unleashed an artillery barrage targeting a number of villages in the Turkish-occupied al-Bab region. Strikes were recorded against the villages of Barshaya, al-Shuwaiha, al-Sukaria al-Kabirah, al-Sukaria al-Saghira, al-Kreedeh, Jib al-Barazi and al-Ajam (3.6).
- Troop movements: The SDF continued to mobilize troops and fortify positions along the frontlines with Turkish-held territories, sending military reinforcements from the city of Raqqa to a number of points in the eastern Aleppo countryside (12.6). The SDF has also sought to project a common front with the Assad government as a bulwark against Turkish invasion, raising the regime flag above their positions in Tal Rifat in the northern Aleppo countryside (5.6).
- Anti-SDF attacks: ISIS cells have continued to target the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) across the northeast, with last month witnessing a marked rise in armed attacks that ended several months of declining violence. The group is suspected of being responsible for 14 armed attacks against the SDF and two IED blasts on units across Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hasakah provinces (1.8-30.8). In total, at least five SDF soldiers were killed, and scores wounded.
- Anti-regime attacks: The Syrian regime suffered just one armed attack from suspected ISIS members and two IED hits across Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces, resulting in the deaths of four soldiers and a number of injuries (1.8-30.8).
- Anti-Iranian attacks: Unknown gunmen likely belonging to ISIS launched an armed attack against an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps military post near the town of Anbaj, west of Raqqa, killing four soldiers (8.8).
- Attacks on civilians: ISIS also continued its campaign of intimidation and terror against civilians across the region. While traveling on the road near the town of al-Sour, Yassin Al-Bilal was shot dead by ISIS members as punishment for his past work with the SDF (27.8).
Russian & Pro-Regime Activity
- Russian patrol: Russian police conducted military patrols in the vicinities of Al-Yaroubiyah, northeast of Hasakah, and ad-Darbasiyah, north of Hasakah (3.8, 11.8).
- Russian airstrikes: Russian forces continued a largely ineffectual air campaign against ISIS in the Badia desert region, striking several ISIS positions in the Rusafa Desert and the Athariya desert, west of Raqqa (6.8, 11.8, 16.8).
- Troop movements: A military convoy of the regime forces entered the Tabqa military airport, west of Raqqa (8.8).
Political & Humanitarian Developments
- Arbitrary detentions protests: The SDF’s practice of arbitrary arrests and forced recruitment of civilians continues to stoke unrest and resentment among the population in northeast Syria. Demonstrations erupted in the village of al-Sour, north of Deir Ezzor, demanding the release of 27 individuals held by the Deir Ezzor Military Council following their arrest on charges of communicating with enemies of the SDF (1.8). Another demonstration took place in front of the SDF-affiliated Asayish center after a military patrol arrested a number of residents from Sheikh Hassan village north of Raqqa (11.8).
- Taxi strike: Taxi drivers went on strike in the city of Qamishli to protest against widespread corruption and cronyism within the Self Administration’s fuel committees (17.8).
- Journalist arrest: Masked members of the PKK-linked Revolutionary Youth Movement arrested the journalist Barzan Farman, a correspondent working the Runahi channel, from his home in Qamishli (4.8).
- Tribal assassination attempt: Sheikh Mohammed Hasnawi al-Jado, one of the dignitaries of the Jabour tribe and a prominent supporter of the Assad regime, was wounded by unknown gunmen who targeted his car in the town of Tal Brak in the Hasakah countryside (11.8).
- Anti-regime protests: People demonstrated in the village of al-Izba, east of Deir Ezzor, against perceived SDF moves toward reconciliation with the Assad regime, demanding the departure of Iranian militias from the area and calling for the return of displaced residents to their villages (14.8).
- American patrols: American forces conducted several patrols in the countryside of al-Malikiyah, Rmelan and Qamishli (12.8, 28.8, 29.8).
- Seed prices set: The Agriculture Authority of the Self Administration has set the price of sterilized seeds for farmers at 2,300 Syrian pounds, and the price of sterilized seeds for private contractors with the Foundation for Seed Multiplication at 2,500 Syrian pounds (13.8).
- Al-Hol raids: Life at the al-Hol camp is punctuated by frequent SDF raids, which were carried out across all sections of the camp and aimed to control rising extremist activity that has spread there in recent months (5.8, 13.8, 20.8, 26.8, 27.8, 31.8). The SDF also removed at least 96 tents from the camp, which were used by ISIS members for Sharia courses and special trials of camp residents and reportedly foiled a plan by ISIS operatives to smuggle 65 women out of al-Hol inside trucks. Additionally, the SDF arrested a number of women during a campaign of raids in Roj camp in al-Malikiyah countryside, northeast of Hasakah (7.8)
- Al-Hol deaths: Amidst a heat wave and poor conditions in the al-Hol, a child died of heat stroke there early in the month (1.8). Additionally, the bodies of two brothers with bullet wounds to the head were found in the fifth section of the camp (10.8).
- International ISIS returns: Slow progress to repatriate international ISIS members and their families continued through the month. An Algerian delegation visited the Roj camp, which houses ISIS families in the Hasakah countryside, while an official Iraqi delegation visited al-Hol the next day to register the names of Iraqis wishing to return to their country (3.8, 4.8). A week later, 20 buses comprising 153 Iraqi families left al-Hol for Jada camp in Iraq. The administration of al-Hol camp is also preparing a further list of Iraqi women and children in preparation for their handover to Iraqi authorities (23.8).