A renewed burst of ISIS activity has rocked northeast Syria in recent weeks, with ISIS operatives refocusing on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), rather than the regime, in a rising wave of coordinated and sophisticated attacks unlike any other witnessed in months. With armed attacks or IED blasts recorded nearly every day in April, dozens of SDF forces have been killed across all regions of Self Administration control and scores of others wounded. With ISIS activities on the rise, the security situation inside the al-Hol detention camp has also progressively deteriorated over the course of the month. Murders, mostly targeting camp residents, continue to be perpetrated using illegal arms that are smuggled in to al-Hol with cooperation from ISIS elements outside, demonstrating both a level of SDF corruption as well as the extent of communication between ISIS operatives inside and outside the camp..
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 27th April 2022
- Anti-SDF attacks: ISIS cells have ramped up their insurgency against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), launching an escalating campaign of armed attacks and IED strikes unlike anything witnessed in months. The group was responsible for 11 armed attacks and seven IED blasts across Hasakah, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor provinces, killing over 24 SDF troops and wounding dozens of others (1.4-24.4).
- Anti-regime attacks: Attacks against the regime declined somewhat this month in contrast to the group’s surging campaign against the SDF. ISIS gunmen targeted a regime vehicle in al-Qureya, east of Deir Ezzor, killing one soldier and wounded a number of others (5.4).
- Anti-smuggling raids: The SDF carried out a large-scale campaign of raids at the river crossing in al-Jardhi, seizing quantities of diesel fuel that were on their way to the areas controlled by the Assad regime on the opposite bank of the Euphrates (20.4).
Turkish & SNA Activity
- Drone strike: One SDF member was killed and another wounded in a Turkish drone strike targeting a military vehicle in the town of Tal Tamer, north of Hasakah (4.4). In another attack, the co-chairperson of the defense office in the Self-Administration’s Executive Council was killed, along with two of her companions, when a Turkish drone strike targeted her car on the Raqqa-Kobani road (20.4).
Political & Humanitarian Developments
- KNC-PKK conflict: A long-simmering conflict between the pro-Barzani Kurdish National Congress (KNC) and the Revolutionary Youth group, which is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), violently reignited this month. In a coordinated attack, masked gunmen simultaneously stormed and burned down KNC headquarters in the cities of Hasakah, al-Darbasiyah, and al-Malikiyah.
- Landmines: Several landmine explosions were recorded across Syrian territory in April. A member of the regime forces was killed and two others were injured while driving a military vehicle in the vicinity of Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, while another killed an SDF serviceman near Tal Tamer, north of Hasakah (3.4, 4.4).
- Protests: One demonstration took place in the village of al-Hussan, protesting poor living conditions in the western Deir Ezzor countryside, while another followed in nearby village of Al-Zughair against the SDF’s decision to appoint Mahmoud Al-Rajab as head of the Deir Ezzor Civil Council (4.4, 12.4). Large-scale violent protests also erupted in al-Ji’ah, following the killing of two young men at a local SDF checkpoint (22.4). The SDF was forced to subsequently abandon the checkpoint. The next day, people in the small town of Suwaidan Jazira closed the local municipality building, expelling employees and accusing officials of corruption, nepotism, and theft (25.4).
- Al-Hol humanitarian developments: Violence steadily increased during the month across all sections of the al-Hol camp. At least seven camp residents were killed and another wounded in series of stabbings and armed gunmen attacks (10.4-22.4). Several women of French and Moroccan origin were also threatened with death by other women accused of working with SDF intelligence within the camp (21.4). Additionally, a child died due to lack of medical care in in al-Hol (7.4).
- Al-Hol raids: The SDF launched a series of raids in al-Hol, specifically targeting the fifth and sixth sections of the camp (5.4, 9.4, 14.4). At least four people were arrested in these raids and removed to unknown locations outside the camp.
- Coronavirus: Cases of the novel coronavirus are down significantly this month, though deaths and infections are thought to be significant undercounts across northeast Syria. In the month of March, the Self-Administration recorded 1,698 new cases and 34 deaths in the areas under its control (1.4-22.4).