After a brief lull in bombardments following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, intense shelling against military and civilian targets resumed across opposition held-territory in northwest Syria in April. The frequency and intensity of these strikes grew steadily throughout the month, though civilian casualty numbers remained relatively low due to the mass depopulation of areas around Jabal a-Zawiya following previous waves of shelling by the regime. Russian warplanes also increased strikes against an array of military targets centered around Fleifel and al-Fatirah, two villages that witnessed at least six raids in a single day in early April. Despite this recent uptick in violence however, there is no indication of an upcoming offensive by pro-regime forces. Overall, the war in Ukraine has further strained the already complicated relationship between Turkey and Russia, with Ankara recently banning the passage of all Russian military and civilian aircraft through its territory—although it remains to be seen how a more strained Russian-Turkish relationship may play out in the opposition-held northwest in coming months.
Attached Map: Military Situation in North-West Syria – 28th April 2022
Regime & Russian Movement
- Regime violations: Regime forces and affiliated militias continued to repeatedly bombard areas and villages in the southern countryside of Idlib and the western countryside of Hama. Artillery strikes were recorded in more than a dozen towns since mid-February, including al-Fatirah, Afes, Felifel, al-Bara, Sarmin, and Kansafra (2.4, 4.4, 15.4).
- Russian violations: Russian warplanes attacked targets in Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia provinces on several occasions since March, striking several military and civilian targets. While Russian attacks had ceased for a period following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian bombardments resumed towards the end of April. Shelling was recorded around al-Fatirah, in several locations around Jabal a-Zawiya, the Kabinah hills in Jabal al-Akrad, al-Dana, and the Darat Azza area west of Aleppo (9.4, 22.4, 23.4, 25.4).
- Turkish-regime clashes: Tensions between Turkish and regime forces resumed in late March, with cross-border shelling recorded at several points. The Turkish army and affiliated SNA units stationed in the village of Marimin launched a number of rocket-propelled grenade strikes against regime positions in the village of Abyan (26.3). Regime forces in Kafr Halab and Darat Izza retaliated with artillery strikes against Turkish positions on the road between Atarib and Kafr Noran, striking the villages of Maklabis and Sheikh Suleiman that sit along the roadway (27.3, 28.3). Two Turkish troops died in the attacks.
Opposition & Extremist Movement
- SNA-SDF clashes: A number of violent incidents took place between the Turkish-backed SNA and troops belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). SDF artillery shells struck a hospital in Azaz, north of Aleppo, in conjunction with an attempted advance around the town Tadef that was later repelled by the SNA (23.4). Two days later, a Turkish drone strike hit an SDF position in the eastern Aleppo village of al-Muhsinli, north of Manbij, injuring seven troops (25.3).
- Extremist & opposition violations: The radical Fateh al-Mabin operations room recorded a number of sniper attacks against regime positions along frontlines in Aleppo, Idlib, and Latakia. Regime casualties were reported in Kawkaba, al-Tarnbah, Sheikh Aqil, and al-Tarnbeh (23.3, 26.3, 8.3, 14.4,). The group also struck regime positions with artillery barrages around the town of al-Dana, south of Idlib, in addition to a machine gun position on the Kafranbel axis (26.3, 25.4).