Violence continues to sporadically erupt between Iranian-backed militias and Israeli forces along frontlines in south-west Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The temporary truce reached between Hamas and Israel brought a brief period of calm, and many residents near the Golan who had fled returned to their homes. Russian forces, meanwhile, have attempted to increase their visibility in the south, but their actions have no influence on any Iranian-backed groups there. Cross-border military activity may resume now that the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has lapsed.
Map – Recent Developments in South Syria
(For a high-resolution version of this map, please use the form at the bottom of the page)
Conflict with Israel
Throughout November, Iranian-backed militias in south-west Syria sporadically launched attacks on Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. Lebanese Hezbollah and Liwa al-Quds have been deemed responsible for many of the attacks, which have prompted retaliatory strikes from Israeli forces. The Israeli army has largely targeted Iranian-linked sites in the south, and forces have used medium weapons to keep a barrier near the border strip. Undeterred, Hezbollah has continued to deploy dozens of fighters toward border areas in the south.
In the weeks after Hamas’ 7th October attack against Israel, more than 5,000 Syrian civilians fled areas along the border strip to stay with relatives in the north—including some 3,00 children and 1,200 women. However, since 23rd October, at least 70 percent of those originally displaced have returned to their homes, encouraged by the lack of escalation and an Israeli response that has so far spared civilian areas.
Russian forces have increasingly sought to project their visibility and power in the south, but their expanded presence has not interfered with or impacted the operations of any Iranian-backed groups in the area.
Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) members targeted regime fighters attempting to set up a new checkpoint near the city of Nawa, forcing them to abandon the effort.
The peak smuggling season on south Syria’s border with Jordan has kicked off now that wintry conditions allow smugglers to move undetected across the border more easily. Although full winter conditions have been slower to start than in past years, the smuggling season is now underway. Within the country, the consumption, abuse and addiction of Captagon continues to be a growing issue among regime ranks.
Instability in South Syria
Endemic levels of societal violence, as well as frequent attacks against regime forces and other local authority figures, continues across southern Syria. Amidst an overall security vacuum, myriad clashes between armed groups, local clan disputes and assassinations against a range of figures have resulted in a tense and precarious security environment.
Over the course of the month, four IED blasts across Daraa and Quneitra provinces targeted regime forces, with at least one attack linked to HTS. Another two armed attacks were recorded against regime forces. Targeted killings have also continued at elevated levels across the south-west, claiming the lives of more than 14 individuals in the past month.
On 24th November, protesters in Suwayda city marked 100 days of continued anti-regime demonstrations. In Daraa city, more than 500 people participated in a demonstration in front of the al-Omari Mosque, marking the most significant public protest in the area in weeks. Demonstrators expressed solidarity with civilians in Gaza while demanding the fall of the Syrian regime and the removal of Iranian militias from the region.
As economic and political conditions in south Syria continue to deteriorate, irregular migration by young Daraa residents is continuing. Thousands of individuals are currently in smuggling staging-locations, mostly in the Central Mediterranean, awaiting dangerous boat journeys towards Europe.
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