CrisisWatch: December Alerts and November Trends 2023 – Crisis Group

Hostilities in north west and Türkiye’s operations in north east continued at lower intensity, Islamic State (ISIS) maintained deadly desert insurgency, and Israel, U.S. and Iran-backed groups traded fire amid Gaza war.

In north west, fighting eased. Hostilities between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and regime gradually returned to levels before escalation triggered by 5 Oct attack on Homs military academy. Nevertheless, Russian airstrikes 11 Nov continued in Idlib province, regime continued shelling south of M5 highway and suspected HTS suicide drone attacks on army positions persisted; drone attack 18 Nov killed regime colonel at Aleppo military college.

In north east, Türkiye continued intermittent strikes. After ending major air campaign late Oct against Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated targets, Turkish drone strike 15 Nov reportedly killed three militants near Kobane city, Aleppo province. Türkiye 17 Nov announced killing PKK’s “ideological division manager”. Four drone strikes 23-25 Nov hit vehicles across north east, killing veteran PKK commander.

ISIS exacted high toll on regime forces in centre. ISIS maintained high-level of attacks, making Nov deadliest month for pro-regime security forces in central desert in 2023. Notably, fighting around Doubayat gas field, Homs province, early Nov killed over dozen Iran-backed Afghan fighters. Two ISIS attacks 8 Nov killed at least 30 pro-govt militants and soldiers. ISIS cells expanded operations to Kawm axis between Sukhnah town, Homs, and Resafa town, Raqqa, and 11 Nov besieged regime forces. ISIS militants 22, 24 Nov conducted rare attacks inside regime-held towns along Euphrates.

Syria saw Israel-Hizbollah clashes and hostilities between U.S. and Iran-backed forces. Suspected Hizbollah drone from near Homs city 9 Nov targeted school in Israeli city Eilat; in response, Israeli airstrikes 10 Nov killed at least seven Hizbollah members south of Homs. Rockets 11, 14 Nov targeted northern Israel, triggering retaliatory shelling. Israeli airstrikes 22 Nov reportedly killed two Hizbollah affiliates near Damascus. Israel 26 Nov again incapacitated Damascus International Airport. Meanwhile, Iranian and Iran-backed forces continued dozens of attacks on U.S. positions, including rocket strike 29 Nov; U.S. 8, 12 Nov retaliated by striking two targets in Deir ez-Zor, killing at least eight in latter.

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Ava Grey

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