Syria Military Brief – North-East Syria – 2 March 2022
The SDF remains paralyzed by the profound challenges facing northeast Syria, as living conditions continue to deteriorate and prices of commodities trend higher for communities across the region. Against the backdrop of a persistent ISIS insurgency that has targeted both SDF and regime forces, extreme levels of violence within al-Hol camp, and the Self Administration’s limited ability to project authority over much of the territory under its control, the Self Administration has been unable to respond to most of the pressing socio-economic needs in the northeast. With disruptive protests against Self Administration governance becoming an almost constant feature of daily life, authorities have instead focused on suppressing dissent by stepping up raids against local villages and taking steps to muzzle the press. Rudaw news channel now joins Kurdistan 24 on the list of banned media, while authorities moved to arrest several prominent journalists in Qamishli and al-Malikiyah in recent weeks.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 2nd March 2022
- Anti-SDF attacks: ISIS-aligned fighters continued their campaign of violence and sabotage against the SDF in northeast Syria, striking a range of military targets across Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces in a series of five armed attacks (2.2-22.2). These attacks resulted in the deaths of at least eight SDF soldiers, and the injuries of four others. An ISIS suicide bomber also detonated themselves in front of an SDF military checkpoint in the Ghweran neighborhood of Hasakah (8.2). The following week, three bodies identified as SDF members were found nearby the same checkpoint, having been murdered with knives (13.2).
- Anti-regime attacks: Regime forces also faced repeated attacks from the ongoing ISIS insurgency, suffering four IED blasts that killed at least six soldiers, all south of Raqqa. A number of regime forces were also killed and wounded in an armed attack targeting a military convoy on the Athariya road, west of Raqqa (22.2).
- Attacks on civilians: Suspected ISIS elements also continued to target and terrorize civilians with assassinations. In the town of Dhiban, east of Deir Ezzor, unknown gunmen shot dead one local council employee (26.2).
- Arrests and raids: The SDF arrested dozens of individuals in raids across the region, including the area of Tel Hamees and al-Twaina north of Hasakah, al-Aresha, al-Haddadiya, Ajaja, al-Atta, al-Tariqiah, Abu Fass, Ajaja, Tal Ahmar, and Umm Raqiba south of Hasakah, al-Jarniyah, west of Raqqa, the al-Nashwa neighborhood of Hasakah, al-Bahra east of Hasakah, the the Mushairfa neighborhood in the city of Hasakah, and several villages around Tal Tamr (3.2, 5.2, 8.2, 9.2, 10.2, 12.2, 17.2, 26.2, 27.2).
- Civilian casualties: Protests erupted in the town of al-Ibza against the Self Administration’s appointment of a pro-regime National Defense Force (NDF) militia leader as head of the Supply Division in the Deir Ezzor countryside (27.2). SDF members shot and wounded a number of civilians during the protests, and the officials sent a delegation of negotiators to diffuse the protests.
- SNA clashes: At least six members of the SDF were killed and others were wounded by artillery strikes from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), amidst a series of clashes near the towns of Ain Issa and al-Hoshan, north of Raqqa, and in al-Dardara, north of Hasakah (22.2, 26.2, 23.2).
- Media persecution: Amidst an increasingly oppressive media and free speech environment across Self Administration areas, authorities stepped up arrests of journalists and other media restrictions. Officials ordered the closure of Rudaw news channel, echoing a similar closure of Kurdistan 24 last year (5.2). The SDF also arrested two correspondents in the city of Qamishli, followed by the arrest of another journalist in the al-Malikiyah countryside two weeks later (6.2, 20.2).
- Smugglers shot: The SDF shot and killed several men during an anti-smuggling operation along the banks of the Euphrates River in the village of Zghair Jazira, northwest of Deir Ezzor (4.2).
- Protests: Residents in the village of Um Madfaa, south of Hasakah, blocked roads to protest poor services and deteriorating living conditions under the Self Administration (21.2).
- Tribal killing: The SDF shot and killed a prominent leader of the al-Bakara tribe during a raid on his house in the village of al-Dahla, east of Deir Ezzor (22.2).
- Bail releases: The SDF released a number of detainees from the town of Dhiban, east of Deir Ezzor (24.2).
Political & Humanitarian Developments
- Foreign ISIS prisoners: Several foreign governments made slow progress towards the repatriation of their nationals who are suspected foreign ISIS members in February, as the Netherlands returned five women and their children from the Roj camp, northeast of Hasakah (2.2). Russia followed suit later in the month, repatriating nine Russian children from the camp (23.2).
- Al-Hol developments: Extreme levels of violence continue to plague al-Hol, as SDF forces conducted four comprehensive raid campaigns across several sections in the camp and arrested 11 individuals accused of collaborating with ISIS (2.4-23.2). At least eight individuals were killed by the SDF during these raids, including children, following other spontaneous incidents of violence in al-Hol.
- Coronavirus: Although cases have risen, deaths from the novel coronavirus continued to decline across northeast Syria in February (1.2-27.2). The Self Administration recorded 6,746 new cases and 87 deaths in the areas under its control, bringing the total number of deceased to 1,552 since the pandemic began.