The radical group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continues to covet new territories in Turkish-controlled Afrin, seeking ways to gain frontline positions within Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) territory and control over pipelines that funnel oil from SDF areas into Turkish-controlled areas. Open divisions and infighting within the Turkish-backed 3rd Corps––a component of the Syrian National Army (SNA) in Afrin––provided HTS with an opportunity to intervene militarily and enter the area in early October (7.10) with support from the ostensibly Turkish-backed Ahrar a-Sham and al-Hamzah Division. The allied groups quickly infiltrated the border crossing town of Jindares and the city of Afrin, pushing Turkish officials to intervene with several rounds of mediated negotiations, and forcing HTS to withdraw to Idlib. The infighting among SNA groups and their rapid defeat at the hands of HTS is a clear sign that these factions lack the discipline and preparedness to assist in any Turkish operations against the SDF, further diminishing the prospects of any cross-border incursion by Ankara in the foreseeable future. However, the HTS operation prompted widespread protests among Syrian civilians in the area, who took to the streets in shows of anger against the presence of radical elements in Afrin, loudly voicing their continued support for political freedom.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-West Syria – 3rd November 2022
Regime & Russian Strikes
- Regime violations: The regime and allied militias continue to regularly attack towns and villages in rural southern Idlib, western Hama, western Aleppo and the northern Latakia countryside on a weekly basis. Over 100 artillery strikes were reported last month, striking the towns of al-Fatira, al-Bara, Binin, al-Raweiha, Maarat a-Nasaan, Hallouz, Sindian, San, al-Atareb, Kafr Aweed, Shanan, al-Wasata, Urm al-Jawz, Majdaliya, Kaframa, al-Abzimo, al-Qasr, Kafredin, al-Zaytouna, al-Qarqur, Kafr Amma and Atarib (2.10, 6.10, 11.10, 18.10, 24.10, 28.10). Two civilians were killed and at least seven injured in these attacks, most of them women and children.
- Russian violations: Russian warplanes bombed a number of military targets and civilian homes across northwestern Syria with dozens of airstrikes. At least six members of the Suqur al-Sham militia, a member of the National Liberation Front (NLF), were killed in an attack on their camp near the town of Qatma north of Aleppo (16.10). Strikes were also recorded in the villages of al-Za’iniyah, Urm al-Jawz and al-Rami in the western Idlib countryside, and the town of al-Qarqur in the western Hama countryside (3.10, 11.10, 17.10).
- SNA attacks: Although plans for a long-awaited Turkish military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) appear to be on hold, Ankara and its allies have continued to target frontline SDF positions in the eastern Aleppo countryside. The 3rd Corps, part of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA), announced that it had infiltrated a joint military site of the regime and SDF along the Abla axis, killing four soldiers during initial fighting before planting several mines at the site and detonating them with a support group, which led to the killing of three more soldiers (7.10)
- Regime border skirmishes: Turkish forces have continued to engage in occasional border skirmishes with pro-regime forces in northern Syria, shelling regime forces stationed in the 46th Regiment, west of Aleppo, as well as a regime military post in the village of Kuran, 30 km east of Ain al-Arab (11.10, 16.10).
- New Turkish base: The Turkish army is establishing a new military post on the road between the city of Kafr Nabl and the town of al-Bara, south of Idlib (31.10).
Attacks by Opposition & Radical Factions
- HTS incursion in Afrin: Seizing on continuous fractures and infighting among the Turkish-backed 3rd Corps in Afrin, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the ostensibly Turkish-backed Ahrar a-Sham and Hamzah Division crossed from Idlib and briefly captured the towns of Jindares and Afrin (7.10). The 3rd Corps groups in the area quickly withdrew further west to Kafr Jannah, forcing Turkish officials to intervene and mediate several rounds of negotiations between the parties to end the standoff. Ultimately, Ankara pressured HTS and its allies to withdraw back to Idlib, restoring the status quo in Afrin. However, the entry of HTS into the area prompted widespread protests from civilians who took to the streets demanding the departure of radical groups.
- Fateh al-Mubin operations: Members of the radical Fateh al-Mubin (Great Conquest) operations room penetrated regime positions on the 46th Regiment front, west of Aleppo, during a forward military operation. The group destroyed a regime military post, killed five soldiers and seized a number of light weapons before quickly withdrawing back behind the demarcation line (5.10).
- UN aid: A UN aid convoy comprised of 18 trucks carrying WFP food parcels entered rural eastern Idlib province from regime-held territory at al-Tarnbah crossing, the third such convoy to enter Idlib since July of this year (22.10).