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As the end of the year approaches, the situation in Syria remains for the most part unstable. As of December 20, several incidents were reported in the country’s northeastern, central and southern regions. However, the situation in the northwestern region of Greater Idlib, where the al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is in control, has been surprisingly calm.
On December 18 and 19, there were no violations of the ceasefire, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey more than a year ago.
With the exception of the deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe, the situation in the region was calm. No fire exchanges were reported along the region’s frontlines. This situation may change dramatically in the upcoming days.
Developments in the northeastern region of Syria were a bit different. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and government supporters continue to harass the US-led international coalition, while fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are gunned down on a regular basis.
On December 18, SAA soldiers intercepted a US-led coalition convoy that attempted to pass through the town of Tell Tamer in the northern countryside of al-Hasakah. The soldiers blocked the town’s main road forcing the convoy to retreat. This was the fifth such incident in the northern al-Hasakah countryside within a week.
On December 19, unidentified gunmen targeted a vehicle carrying fighters of the SDF on a road leading to the al-Omar oil fields in the southeastern Deir Ezzor countryside. As a result of the attack, three SDF fighters were killed and two others were wounded. While the Syrian state TV said that the perpetrators were members of the “Popular Resistance,” activists speculated that ISIS was behind the attack.
There was no reaction from the US-led coalition, the main backer of the SDF, who maintains a large presence in the al-Omar oil field. Attacks on the SDF will not likely stop anytime soon.
Meanwhile, in the central region, the ISIS insurgency against the SAA and its allies seems to be gaining momentum.
On December 18, the group’s terrorists carried out two bloody attacks. During the first attack, the terrorists opened fire from their machine guns at a vehicle of the SAA that was moving along the road near the town of Dibsi ‘Afnan in the southwestern countryside of Raqqa. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, two service members were killed and three others were wounded in the attack.
During their second attack, the terrorists targeted a vehicle of Iranian-backed forces with an anti-tank guided missile near the area of Faydat ibn Muyn’a in the southern countryside of Deir Ezzor. Four Iranian-backed foreign fighters, likely of Afghan or Iraqi origin, were allegedly killed in the attack.
The SAA and its allies are likely to respond to the aggression by further reinforcing their troops in the desert areas of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The security situation in the southern region remains poor, especially in the governorate of Daraa.
On December 18, Iyad Jara, a former commander of the Free Syrian Army group that was known as the Army of the Revolution, survived an assassination attempt that left him with severe wounds. Unidentified gunmen opened fire when Jara was in the town of Tafas in the western countryside of Daraa.
After the 2018 reconciliation process in Daraa, Jara became one of the main trouble makers in the governorate. He is known to be wanted by Syrian authorities. It’s possible that Jara was targeted by Syrian intelligence or local supporters of the government.
Although violence in Daraa and the rest of Syria is not expected to stop until the end of the year, it may decrease in the upcoming few weeks. The deteriorating humanitarian situation and bad weather conditions are forcing all parties, including the terrorist groups, to limit their actions.