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Chaos has returned to Syria’s southern region. As of March 18, several serious security incidents were reported in the region, specifically in the governorate of Daraa.
On March 15, a battle broke out in Jasim in the western countryside of Daraa when a force of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) stormed the town to arrest a number of gunmen who are wanted for cooperating with ISIS and carrying out terrorist attacks.
The gunmen resisted arrest and targeted the GID force with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. As a result, five intelligence officers were killed. The gunmen also damaged two truck-mounted machine guns and an armored vehicle belonging to the GID.
Following the battle, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) besieged Jasim with a large, heavily-armed force. An initial agreement with the locals to secure Jasim was reached. However, the wanted gunmen are still hiding in the town.
On March 17, Tayseer Hamdi al-Okla, head of Jasim’s local council, was gunned down by unidentified gunmen inside the town.
On the same day, two patrols of the Syrian Political Security Directorate (PSD) were targeted with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the Damascus-Daraa highway. The first patrol was targeted near the Khirbet Ghazaleh bridge, while the second came under attack next to the al-Ayman gas station. The two attacks wounded a number of PSD officers. ISIS cells were allegedly behind the attacks.
The security situation in Daraa is deteriorating once again. ISIS appears to be rebuilding its influence in the governorate. Government forces will likely take decisive action to bring order back to Daraa. Any such action will likely start in Jasim.
Meanwhile in Syria’s central region, the situation is not much better. ISIS cells are once again stepping up their attacks on government forces in the region.
On March 17, the al-Quds Brigade, a Palestinian pro-Damascus armed group, announced that five of its fighters were killed in the eastern countryside of Homs.
The fighters were reportedly conducting a combing operation in the area of al-Sutayhah in the al-Amour mountain chain when they were ambushed and killed by ISIS fighters.
On the same day, a series of Syrian and Russian airstrikes targeted hideouts of the terrorists in the Hama-Aleppo-Raqqa triangle.
Government forces and their allies will likely respond to ISIS’s recent attacks by intensifying their operations in the central region, especially in the eastern Homs countryside.
In Syria’s northern and northeastern regions, tensions continue to grow between Turkish forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On March 12, three children were wounded when the Turkish military shelled the SDF-held village of Hisza in the northern countryside of Raqqa.
On March 16, the Turkish military and its proxies pounded the towns of Minaq, Maraanaz and al-Alqamiyah in the northern countryside of Aleppo. The artillery strikes wounded at least two service members of the SAA. The three towns are jointly held by the SDF and government forces.
A few hours after the artillery strikes, a Turkish combat drone struck the village of Hawshan in the northern Raqqa countryside. The drone strike damaged a vehicle. However, no casualties were reported.
The SDF is yet to respond to the recent Turkish attacks. The group may be trying to avoid any further escalation. Last year, several reports revealed a plan by Ankara to launch a large-scale military operation against the SDF in northern and northeastern Syria.
Meanwhile, the situation in the northwestern Syrian region of Greater Idlib remains calm despite some unusual Russian and Turkish moves.
On March 13, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) conducted intensive armed patrols over Greater Idlib.
The patrols were conducted following reports of suspicious activities by the region’s de-facto ruler, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). According to one report, the terrorist group moved rockets armed with a toxic gas to the southern Idlib countryside very recently.
On March 17, a large convoy belonging to the Turkish military entered Greater Idlib. The convoy consisted of 50 vehicles including armored personnel carriers, battle tanks, mobile rocket launchers and heavy howitzers.
Both Russia and Turkey appear to be preparing for an escalation or even an all-out confrontation in Greater Idlib.
Despite all recent developments in Greater Idlib and the rest of Syria, the country will not likely witness a large-scale confrontation anytime soon. The war in Ukraine has forced all sides in Syria to de-escalate, at least for the time being.