Saber rattling across the demarcation line has grown louder from both sides in recent weeks. In a show of force against recent Turkish troop build ups in the area, the regime has deployed units to the strategic frontline position of Ain Issa, while Russian drones veered into Turkish-controlled airspace around Ras al-Ain, provocatively coinciding with a nearby joint training operation between Turkish forces and SNA militia groups. Despite the noise, an offensive looks unlikely in the near-term, since troop deployment and movements on all sides do not amount to the level indicating serious military ambition. Meanwhile, a resurgence of ISIS violence in northeast Syria has brought a renewed wave of almost daily attacks against both SDF and pro-regime forces, resulting in a rising death toll for both camps. Despite a months-long Russian-led campaign of aerial bombardment against the group centered on striking ISIS positions in the Badia desert, ISIS has continued to regain strength and inflict more casualties than during any other period in the past year.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 13th December 2021
Russian & Pro-Regime Activity
- Landmine accident: Four members of the regime forces were killed when a number of landmines detonated inside a military vehicle as they were being transported inside the city of Deir Ezzor (22.11).
- Rukban interrogations: Civilians who previously returned from the Rukban camp near the Syrian-Jordanian border to their homes in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor provinces are being asked to report to regime security branches for interrogation about their time in the camp (16.11). Most have been interrogated previously by security forces, and there have been no significant returns from Rukban since late last year.
- Russian patrol: The Russian military police conducted two patrols along the M4 road, one south of Ras al-Ain and the other north of Raqqa (4.11, 15.11). Russian police conducted an additional patrol in the town of Tel Tamer, north of Hasakah (5.11).
- Russian air incursion: Amid ongoing high tensions in the region, Russian reconnaissance aircraft crossed the demarcation lines near Mabrouka in the Ras al-Ain countryside, at the same time that Turkish forces and the Turkish-backed National Army conducted joint exercises nearby (5.11).
- Russian airstrikes: Russian forces continued a largely ineffectual air campaign against ISIS in the Badia desert region, repeatedly striking the group’s positions in Athariya desert west of Raqqa, the Rusafa desert, southwest of Raqqa, and around Jabal Al-Bishri east of Raqqa (2.11, 4.11, 14.11, 24.11). ISIS continues to regularly launch deadly strikes against regime targets in the Syrian desert despite the Russian-led campaign.
- Taqba settlement talks: Two days of talks took place between representatives of the SDF, Russian officers, and leaders of the Russian-backed 5th Corps in the city of Tabqa (7.11).
Turkish & Allies Activities
- Turkish drone strike: Three members of the SDF were killed when a Turkish drone targeted a military vehicle in the al-Hilaliya neighborhood of Qamishli (12.11).
- Anti-SDF attacks: A resurgence of ISIS violence across Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and Hasakah provinces has resulted in deadly casualties for the SDF, who suffered 10 armed attacks and eight IED strikes against over the course of November (3.11-27.11). Altogether, 24 SDF troops lost their lives in these attacks and many more were injured. Two soldiers also lost their lives in a pair of landmine explosions near the town of Tal Tamr, north of Hasakah (3.11, 14.11).
- Anti-regime attacks: ISIS cells have sharply intensified a campaign of sabotage and guerilla attacks against the regime and its allied militias over the past month. The group launched 10 armed attacks and two deadly IED strikes against the regime and allied militias across Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, killing at least 20 pro-regime soldiers and injuring nine others. In just one armed attack that targeted a military point near the Qusaybat oil field in the Deir Ezzor countryside, a large but unspecified number of regime troops were also killed and wounded (4.11).
- Oil tanker attack: An IED exploded next to a tank belonging to the Al-Qatirji Oil Transport Company on the al-Kharafi Road, south of Hasakah (21.11).
- Civilians attacks: The owner of a small local bakery was shot dead by unknown persons in the middle of Dhiban, in the eastern Deir Ezzor countryside (4.11). A similar attack perpetrated by unknown gunmen killed the owner of a money transfer office in town of Jazira Albu Hamid, west of Deir Ezzor (13.11).
Political & Humanitarian Developments
- Protest: Demonstrations against the state of public services and general living conditions broke out in the town of Abu Hamam, in the Shaitat area, east of Deir Ezzor (4.11).
- Water failure: Municipal water ceased pumping to the city of Hasakah due to a power outage at the Allouk station, east of Ras al-Ain (27.11).
- Foreign ISIS prisoners: The steady uptick in repatriations continued over the month of November. The Self Administration handed over three women and 11 children of ISIS families to Ukrainian authorities, all of whom were being held in Roj camp, east of Hasakah (24.11). The next day, authorities there also handed over an orphaned Norwegian girl to representatives of the Norwegian government (25.11).
- Al-Hol developments: Three women were arrested while trying to escape from al-Hol camp, east of Hasakah (4.11). Gunmen also targeted and killed four Iraqis in the camp, in a series of four separate attacks (13.11, 15.11, 27.11, 28.11). At the end of the month, a convoy of 19 families were allowed to return from the camp to their villages after years of detainment (25.11).
- Coronavirus: Deaths from the novel coronavirus remain high in northeast Syria, though new cases have gradually continued to slow in recent months. During the course of November, the Self Administration recorded 12,009 new cases and 286 deaths in the areas under its control. In response to the outbreak in northeast Syria, the crisis cell of Self Administration also imposed a curfew in the town of Mansoura in the western Raqqa countryside (1.11).