About 2 dozen Turkish-backed militants have been killed or wounded in a recent series of clashes in northern Syria. 14 of them were reportedly killed in a failed attack on positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Kubrlik overnight on May 17 and up to 10 were killed or injured in clashes near Hazwan on May 15. Reacting to its own failures, Turkish-backed forces carried out a series of mortar and artillery strikes on SDF positions near Ayn Issa, Tall Tamr and Tall Unayb on May 16, May 17 and early on May 18.
Firefights and artillery duels between Turkish-backed forces and the SDF regularly erupt in this part of Syria. However, both sides do not conduct large-scale offensive operations against each other and despite the violations the ceasefire regime formally remains in force.
On May 17, seven former ISIS members fled the SDF-controlled camp of al-Hawl in the province of al-Hasakah, which holds a large number of the former ISIS fighters and their families. Following the incident, SDF security forces in the area were placed on a high alert. The search operation has been ongoing. Some pro-Kurdish sources claim that the fleeing terrorists have been already detained, but these calms remain unconfirmed. This is the second security incident in al-Hawl in less than 10 days. On May 13, SDF security forces foiled a plot of ISIS wives to set the camp on fire and flee to Turkey.
Early on May 18 reports appeared that a drone strike allegedly struck the area near a convoy of the Syrian Army in the district of Maadan in Raqqa province. Several Syrian Army soldiers were reportedly wounded. It remains unclear who was behind the attack, but the two main suspects are Turkey and the US-led coalition.
On May 17, US armoured vehicles chased in the province of al-Hasakah a Russian military convoy with 150 tones of humanitarian aid being sent to civilians in northeastern Syria, but were unable to stop it.
A firefight between the Syrian Army and ISIS members erupted near the town of al-Sukhna, on the Homs-Deir Ezzor highway. According to reports, ISIS cells tried to cut off the road, but were forced to retreat. Regular attacks by ISIS cells operating in the desert area remain a notable security threat for government forces.
At the same time, the situation in Greater Idlib once again de-escalated. After failing to capture Tanjarah in northwestern Hama last week, al-Qaeda-linked groups reduced their activity on the frontline. Despite this, it’s highly likely that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies will conduct more limited attempts to expand their zone of control in southern Idlib and western Hama in the coming weeks.