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Despite the recent decline in violence in Syria, the war remains far from being over. As of December 23, several military developments and security incidents were reported in the northeastern, central and southern regions. However, in the northwestern region, known as Greater Idlib, the situation remains calm to some extent.
On December 22, a single violation of the ceasefire in Greater Idlib was reported. A sniper of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) opened fire at a soldier of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near the town of al-Buraij in the southern countryside of Idlib.
The SAA soldier survived the attack. Nevertheless, the army responded by shelling militants’ positions near the towns al-Enkawi and Khirbat al-Naqus in the northwestern countryside of Hama. There was no further exchange of fire.
In the northeastern region, which is under control of Turkish forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) the situation was much more tense.
On December 21, the Turkish military and its proxies shelled the towns of Tell Tamer and Abu Rasin, as well as the nearby villages of Umm Harmala, Mazra, Tell Amir, Tell al-Ward, al-Rabi`at and al-Asadiya in the SDF-held part of the northern countryside of al-Hasakah.
The artillery strikes claimed the lives of four civilians and wounded seven other people, including five soldiers of the SAA. The SDF responded by shelling Turkish military posts. Three Turkish-backed militants were reportedly killed.
At the same time, Turkish-backed militants attacked SDF positions near the town of Umm al-Kayf. However, they were pushed back.
On December 22, the Turkish military renewed its artillery strikes on Abu Rasin, wounding at least two civilians. Turkish-backed militants also attempted to advance towards Umm al-Kayf, yet again. However, they were forced to retreat by the SDF. At least one militant was killed in the failed attack.
The situation in the northern al-Hasakah countryside may escalate even further in the upcoming days. Turkey may attempt to pressure the SDF into accepting a new de-escalation agreement on northern and northeastern Syria.
Meanwhile in the central region, the SAA and its allies are still working hard to end ISIS insurgency.
On December 21 and 22, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out at least 25 airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the deserts of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The terrorists carried out several attacks in the two areas in the last few weeks.
The Russian airstrikes were carried out in support of the SAA and its allies, who kicked off a large-scale combing operation on December 22. The operation will reportedly cover the deserts of Homs, Hama, Raqqa and Deir Ezzor all the way up to the southern countryside of Aleppo.
The operation will likely force ISIS cells to slow down their activities for a while. Much more efforts will be needed to put an end to the terrorist group’s insurgency.
In the southern region, the security situation has been unusually calm for the last few days. Only one important security breach was reported.
On December 21, Syrian security forces uncovered and dismantled an improvised explosive device (IED) that was planted in the Governorate Roundabout in Daraa city. The area is highly secured. It remains unclear how someone was able to infiltrate the area.
Despite the recent improvement, more should be done to secure and stabilize the southern region, especially Daraa.
On the political side, the 17th round of the Astana Talks was held in the Kazakhstani capital on December 22. The talks were attended by representatives of Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Damascus government and the Syrian opposition.
The talks on the situation in Syria were positive. In the end, all parties stressed the need to fight terrorism represented by ISIS and HTS, stabilize Greater Idlib, boost the political process, improve the humanitarian situation and find a solution for the challenge posed by the Kurdish-led SDF in the northeastern region.
These are indeed the main issues keeping the war ongoing in Syria. Yet, a comprehensive agreement to solve these challenges will not likely be reached anytime soon.