Syria Military Brief – South Syria – 17th January 2021

A wave of assassinations and targeted killings have left dozens dead in south Syria in recent weeks, marking a drop in local stability that has left local communities fearful of continued violence. Those targeted include the former opposition, regime-linked figures, drug smugglers as well as civilians with no clear ties to armed groups. The spike in violence has also prompted harsh responses from the regime in the form of aggressive deployments and increased tensions with the former opposition as attacks against regime targets continue.


Attached Map: Recent Developments in South Syria – 17th January 2022


Military & Political Developments

  • Targeted killings: A wave of deadly assassinations left dozens dead and wounded across Daraa province amid poor security conditions and worsening instability in south Syria. The attacks struck a variety of targets—including regime, former opposition and civilian entities. Some 38 assassinations or attempted killings were recorded in December 2020 alone, following an upwards trend of violent activity in the south.
  • Thousands flee: Some 2,500 young men fled Daraa province amid poor security and economic conditions, with many utilizing smuggling routes to reach Lebanon and north-west Syria (3.1). The sudden influx of departures from Daraa coincides with the expiry of a grace period for mandatory military service granted by the regime last year that is set to end in April. Upon its expiry, tens of thousands of men will be required to report for military service or see their names added to wanted lists. Fear of military service—and of being sent to prison for avoiding it—is one of the most significant reasons Syrians flee the country and why thousands of refugees fear return.

Instability in South Syria

  • Attacks: Regime forces come under repeat attacks in the wake of continued popular anger:
    – IED blast: One regime fighter was killed and several others injured after a bomb exploded near the border with the occupied Golan Heights in rural northern Quneitra province (8.1).
    – 4th Division targeted: An armed group opened fire on a 4th Division military vehicle near Sanamayn in rural northern Daraa province, yet no information is available regarding casualties (26.12).
    – Bomb strike: Unknown attackers detonated a bomb near the home of drug dealer Fayez a-Radi in Nassib near the border (30.12).
    – Police attacked: An armed group threw several hand grenades into a police station in El Harah in rural northern Daraa province, prompting officers to return fire towards the attackers (30.11). No casualties were reported in the aftermath.
    – 9th Division attacked: An armed group targeted a 9th Division position near a-Shayah in the Lajat region of rural eastern Daraa, yet no casualties were reported (6.1).

Arrests & Violations

  • Border arrest: Regime Political Security arrested a former opposition fighter inside the Nassib border crossing (5.1).
  • Killed in prison: The regime issued four death notices for imprisoned former opposition fighters from Daraa province (26.12-8.1).
  • Detained while fleeing: Regime forces arrested a former opposition fighter as he attempted to depart south Syria en route to Lebanon (29.12).

Humanitarian Developments

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Healthcare professionals in Daraa province recorded some 3,605 new coronavirus infections and 63 new deaths (26.12-8.1). Official regime totals continue to reveal only a fraction of the actual caseload as medical professionals continue to grapple with an influx of patients and a shortage of resources.