Syria Military Brief: North-East Syria – 4 November 2021

Asignificant push for repatriation and release of residents from the al-Hol and a-Roj displaced persons camps began in October, with both international and local efforts underway. Swedish, German, Danish and British delegations took custody of nearly two dozen relatives of ISIS fighters, most of whom children born to ISIS-member parents. ISIS continues to be a significant and persistent threat to both the SDF and the regime in north-east Syria, with deadly attacks by presumed ISIS cells frequently striking units and positions in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Hasakah provinces. Although a Russian-led campaign against ISIS has continued for months, the persistence of ISIS attacks underscores both the difficulty of securing the region from extremist groups and the ineffectual nature of the regime and Russia’s campaign.


Attached Map: Military Situation in North-East Syria – 4th November 2021

ISIS Activity

    • Anti-SDF attacks: Presumed ISIS elements have continued a low-grade campaign of violence and sabotage against the SDF across northeast Syria. Unidentified gunmen fired on an SDF military vehicle on al-Kharafi road, southwest of Abu Fas near the administrative borders of Hasakah and Deir Ezzor provinces, resulting in no casualties (6.10). In a second incident, unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle targeted a military vehicle of the Deir Ezzor Military Council in the town of al-Tukihi (10.10). After an exchange of fire, one of the attackers was killed. Additionally, an SDF member was wounded by a landmine explosion in the vicinity of Tal Tamr, north of Hasakah (9.10). Later in October, a member of the SDF was shot dead by unknown persons in the Dashisha area, south of Hasakah (19.10).
    • Gas station attack: Two guards at the Thalijeh gas station were killed and another wounded in an attack carried out by unknown assailants with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades (6.10).
    • Threatening messages: Dozens of shop owners and individuals with connections to the SDF in towns throughout al-Bukamal countryside received threatening messages via WhatsApp, claiming to be from ISIS operatives, extorting them for various amounts of money (13.10).
    • Anti-regime attacks: ISIS cells have sharply intensified an insurgency campaign against the regime and its allied militias in the past two weeks (15.10-24.10). The group launched three armed attacks and two deadly IED strikes across Deir Ezzor and Raqqa provinces, killing at least nine pro-regime soldiers. Four other soldiers also died after stepping on landmines in the al-Tabani desert of Deir Ezzor and the Rusafa desert in southwest Raqqa (23.10).Suspected ISIS members also killed an unspecified number of 17th Division troops in an armed attack in the desert of al-Bukamal (12.10).

Russian & Regime Activity

    • Militia infighting: Clashes broke out between members of an Iranian militia and the regime’s National Defense Forces (NDF) militia in the city of al-Asharah, east of Deir Ezzor (19.10). A woman was wounded in the skirmishes.

SDF-Related Developments

    • SNA movements: Military reinforcements for the Syria National Army (SNA) arrived in the city of Ras al-Ain from the northern Aleppo countryside, crossing through areas of Turkish control for a potential military operation in the town of Tal Tamr, north of Hasakah (25.10).
    • SDF-SNA fighting: Clashes broke out between the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army and the SDF along the Silwat al-Alia axis, south of Ras al-Ain (17.10).
    • SDF raids: In a series of raids across the city of Raqqa, SDF units arrested six individuals on charges of communicating with the Syrian National Army (19.10). The raids are a continuation of a weeks-long campaign by the SDF against individuals with reported SNA ties, with earlier operations seeing Bassem al-Hassan, Raqqa Civil Council media center director, also taken into custody (3.10)
    • Arab tensions: Villagers in the town of Dhiban expelled SDF units stationed nearby, along the banks of the Euphrates River west of Deir Ezzor, following an attack on a local civilian (8.10). After mediation by HAT special units and representatives of the International Coalition, SDF troops were allowed to return to the area in exchange for handing over the individuals responsible for the attack.
    • Protesters targeted: The SDF wounded seven people after opening fire on demonstrators in Nis Tal in the Tel Barak district of Hasakah province (7.10). The violence erupted as civilians protested an SDF operation to transfer a power transformer from the village.
    • Forced conscription: The SDF released 54 children who had been forcibly recruited into their ranks in the city of Amuda, north of Hasakah (3.10). However, dozens of other minors abducted into the revolutionary youth remain unaccounted for.
    • Roj camp arrests: Seven foreign women being held in the Roj camp were arrested by the SDF after they were seized with mobile phones (8.10). The SDF prevents female detainees from acquiring phones to prevent communication with ISIS cells and smugglers.

Political & Humanitarian Developments

    • Anti-Russian protests: Villagers in the western Deir Ezzor countryside, backed by members of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, are blocking roads to prevent the passage of a Russian convoy through Kasra into the northern Raqqa countryside (21.10). Protesters are also threatening military action against the convoy if it attempts to enter the area.
    • Anti-Turkish protest: Members of the Future Syria Party organized a vigil in the town of al-Kasra, calling for the release of the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan (11.10).