- On October 13, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) deployed its troops towards northern Syria in line with a reported agreement between the Syrian government and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The development highlights the SDF’s willingness to negotiate with the SAA to receive their support to counter the Turkish Operation “Spring of Peace” in northern Syria.
- The SAA as well as the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have deployed troops towards the strategically important town of Manbij in Aleppo Province. The SAA likely seeks to prevent the TSK and the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) from taking control of the town.
- The TSK and its proxies’ recent territorial advances in Raqqa and Hasakah provinces allow them to take control of the strategic M4 Highway, used as a primary supply line by the SDF to move assets to its positions on the frontlines in northern Syria. The SNA may attempt to take control of the entirety of the M4 highway, particularly in Raqqa Province over the coming days.
- Turkey’s new operation has weakened the SDF’s ability to allot their resources for anti-Islamic State (IS) operations. The diversion of SDF fighters has created a security vacuum in People’s Protection Units (YPG)-held territories such as Raqqa, Hasakah, and Deir Ezzor provinces. This has allowed the militant group to increase the pace of its activities in recent days.
- Overall, the October 13 IS-claimed rocket attack targeting a US base in al-Shaddadi in Hasakah Province highlights the ability of the militant group to exploit the SDF’s preoccupation along the Turkey-Syria border to carry out attacks in northern Syria. Therefore, there remains a potential for an uptick in IS attacks in Kurdish-controlled territories over the coming days and weeks.
Please be advised:
Across the country, the following incidents have been reported:
|Map #||Date||District/City||Brief Description|
|1||October 11||Kobani||According to reports quoting the US Pentagon, US troops came under artillery fire from Turkish positions outside the Security Mechanism Zone. No casualties were reported. The Turkish Ministry of Defense reportedly stated that the artillery fire was in response to Kurdish attacks and was not targeted at US troops.|
|2, 3, 4, 5||October 13||al-Farat, Arab Hassan, al-Dandaliya, and al-Jamousiya||Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reinforcements enter al-Farat, Arab Hassan, al-Dandaliya, and al-Jamousiya in support of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following an agreement between the Syrian government and the SDF.|
|6||October 13||Highway 216||SAA units deployed along Highway 216, connecting Jarablus to Manbij.|
|7||October 13||Manbij||Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) reinforcements moved towards the frontlines near Manbij.|
|1||October 13||Kobani||US pulls out troops from its base in Kobani.|
|October 11||Daraa countryside||Islamic State (IS) claims targeting of a Russian convoy and pro-government troops using two IEDs.|
Deir Ezzor Province
|October 10||Diban||IS claims shooting attack targeting a SDF-aligned village leader.|
|Map #||Date||District/City||Brief Description|
|8||October 10-11||Qamishli||SDF announces Turkish shelling of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions in Qamishli.|
|9||October 10-11||Darbasiyah||SDF announces Turkish shelling of YPG positions in Darbasiyah.|
|10||October 11||Ras al-Ayn||SDF announces capture of a five-member Turkish sleeper cell during operations by the SDF’s internal security forces in Ras al-Ayn.|
|11||October 11||Tal Halaf||SDF announces thwarting of Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) infiltration attempt in area.|
|12||October 11||Kashto||Turkey announces “liberation” of Kashto village from the YPG as part of the Operation “Spring of Peace”.|
|8||October 11||Qamishli||IS claims killing and wounding of dozens of YPG fighters in a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) attack.|
|8||October 12||Qamishli||Five IS militants reportedly escape prison following the fall of a mortar shell on the facility.|
|13||October 13||al-Shaddadi||IS claims launch of five Katyusha rockets targeting a US base, which led to material damage at the facility.|
|14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20||October 13||Tal Khagar, Khirbet al-Banat, al-Aziziya, Abu al-Soub, Mukhta, Tal Arqam, and Um Azam||Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) takes control of the towns of Tal Khagar, Khirbet al-Banat, al-Aziziya, Abu al-Soub, Mukhta, Tal Arqam, and Um Azam from the SDF.|
|21||October 13||Tel Baidar||US pull out troops from its base in Tel Baidar.|
|22||October 14||Tal Tamr||SAA takes control of Tal Tamr following following an agreement between the Syrian government and the SDF.|
|Map #||Date||District/City||Brief Description|
|23||October 10||Karama||IS-linked media reports on an IED attack on October 8 that resulted in the killing and wounding of five YPG fighters and the destruction of their vehicle.|
|24||October 10-11||Tal Abyad||SDF reports that the TSK shelled YPG positions in Tal Abyad.|
|24||October 10-11||Tal Abyad||SDF announces repelling of TSK infiltration attempt and killing of 22 TSK soldiers and destruction of three TSK vehicles.|
|24||October 12||Tal Abyad||Reports quoting the SDF state that the Secretary General of the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria was reportedly executed along with nine other civilians by Turkish-backed militias near Tal Abyad. The Turkish-backed SNA reportedly denied the allegations.|
|24, 25, 26||October 13||Tal Abyad, Hammam al-Turkuman, M4 Highway||SNA takes control of Tal Abyad and Hammam al-Turkuman and parts of the SDF-controlled M4 Highway near the Raqqa-Hasakah border.|
|27||October 13||Ain Isa||US pull out troops from its base in Ain Isa.|
|27||October 13||Ain Isa||Hundreds of suspected IS militants reportedly escaped a detention facility in Ain Isa after some of the group’s fighters orchestrated a prison break by attacking the facility’s guards.|
|28||October 14||Tabqa Airbase||SAA troops reportedly take control of Tabqa Airbase from the SDF.|
|29||October 14||Rasafah, Ain Isa||Reports indicate the movement of SAA reinforcements from Rasafah towards Ain Isa via Raqqa City.|
|October 10||French President Emmanuel Macron condemns Turkish operations in northern Syria.|
|October 10||Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened Europe with a flood of refugees if the continent’s leaders call the Turkish invasion of Syria an “occupation.” Erdogan said that “…we will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” while speaking to officials from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).|
|October 10||Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announces Russia’s plans to push for dialogue between the Syrian and Turkish governments following an incursion by Turkish troops into Syria.|
|October 10||According to the Syrian national news agency, Syrian Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister described Turkey’s Operation “Spring of Peace” as an “invasion” and breach international law and Syria’s sovereignty. The minister added that “…Syrian Arab Army, which confronts the terrorist organizations, will confront the foreign invading forces which are present illegitimately on the Syrian territories and it is ready to face all challenges to which Syria is exposed”.|
|October 11||Turkey announces that 49 YPG fighters were neutralized in overnight operations on October 10-11, which brings up the total number of Kurdish militants neutralized so far to 277.|
|October 12||Turkish Foreign Ministry states that “Turkey will respond to any US sanctions within the framework of full reciprocity.”|
|October 13||According to the Syrian official news agency, the SAA has started to send reinforcements to northern Syria in support of the SDF following an agreement between the Syrian government and the SDF.|
Assessments & Forecast:
- Although the details of the October 13 agreement between the Syrian government and the SDF are yet to be released, the deployment of SAA troops towards northern Syria is a highly notable development. It indicates the Kurdish forces’ willingness to at least partially cede territory to the Syrian government in exchange for military support against the TSK and Turkish-backed SNA in the context of Turkey’s Operation “Spring of Peace”. FORECAST: On the one hand, this development will compel the SAA to engage in hostilities along a new frontline in Syria, which, in turn, could adversely impact its ongoing efforts against rebel and jihadist groups in Idlib Province, as it will necessitate the diversion of troops and resources towards the Syria-Turkey border. However, on the other hand, this development will significantly increase President Bashar al-Assad’s hold over power in Syria, as it would allow pro-government forces to take control of key infrastructure and territories in northeastern Syria without having to engage in a military offensive against the SDF.
- The recent increased deployment of both SAA and TSK reinforcements to the frontlines near Manbij is indicative of an impending Turkish offensive against the strategic town over the coming days. Control over Manbij is of significant importance to Turkey, as it is currently controlled by the Manbij Military Council, a civilian body set up by the SDF. Furthermore, Manbij is strategically located on the western edges of SDF-controlled territory along the M4 Highway. Therefore, control over this town would allow the TSK and SNA to move east along the M4 Highway and meet up with its forces in Raqqa and Hasakah provinces, thereby effectively cutting off the SDF’s ability to move reinforcements between these regions. FORECAST: While the presence of SAA troops in the region may delay Turkey’s planned offensive against Manbij, it is unlikely to deter the TSK and the Turkish-backed SNA from launching an offensive against the city. This is partly because the failure of Operation “Spring of Peace” could have a significant adverse impact upon Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity within segments of the local Turkish population that is in support of the offensive against the YPG in Syria. Therefore, while Turkey may focus on its operations in Raqqa and Hasakah provinces over the coming hours and days, this period will likely witness an increase in military buildup by both the SAA and the TSK around Manbij. This will increase the risk of small-scale skirmishes between the SAA and the TSK in Aleppo Province, which is liable to significantly expand the scope and scale of the current hostilities in northern Syria.
- The territorial exchanges in Raqqa and Hasakah provinces between October 12-14 are notable considering the rapid pace of the Turkish-backed forces’ territorial advances vis-a-vis the Kurdish-dominated SDF over the past 24-48 hours. The SNA’s ability to take control over part of the M4 Highway is particularly significant as its allows them to cut off the SDF’s main supply line running between the latter’s territories in Hasakah, Raqqa, and Aleppo provinces. This would make it difficult for the Kurdish forces to send reinforcements from Hasakah Province towards the frontlines in Raqqa Province and vice-versa. It would also prevent the SDF from sending reinforcements to Aleppo Province’s Manbij, where the TSK is currently mobilizing to launch an offensive. FORECAST: With this goal in mind, the SNA will likely capitalize upon its latest advances and attempt to take control over areas along the M4 Highway between Sahl Ruwaydat and Tal Tamr, located in Hasakah Province. This would allow the SNA to flank SDF fighters from three fronts. Furthermore, SNA fighters near Raqqa Province’s Hammam al-Turkuman will likely simultaneously move further south of the town towards the M4 Highway near Ain Isa. If successful, this two-pronged offensive will cut off the SDF’s strategic supply line at two distinct junctures, which will allow the SNA to secure its control over the entirety of the M4 Highway, at least in Raqqa Province. However, the SAA has recently deployed reinforcements towards Tal Tamr and Ain Isa in support of the SDF to defend against the Turkish offensive. This will significantly bolster the Kurdish-backed forces’ defensive capabilities in these two regions, which in turn will pose a challenge to Turkey’s planned offensive. Regardless, heavy fighting is likely to be witnessed in areas located along the M4 Highway between Ain Isa and Tal Tamr over the coming days and weeks.
- Since Turkey’s launch of Operation “Spring of Peace” on October 9, there has been a significant increase in IS activity in northeastern Syria. This can be attributed to two main factors. First, the diversion of SDF troops and resources towards the frontlines along the Turkey-Syria border has created a partial security vacuum in Kurdish-held territories in Raqqa, Hasakah, and Deir Ezzor provinces. This has likely allowed IS militants to regroup and launch an elevated number of attacks in these regions over the past week. Second, there have been instances over recent days, where IS militants have either taken advantage of structural damage caused to Kurdish-operated prisons housing IS fighters from the ongoing hostilities or the significantly reduced presence of guards at such facilities to orchestrate prison breaks, witnessed in Qamishli on October 12 and Ain Isa on October 13, respectively. This has likely bolstered the ranks of IS cells operating in northeastern Syria, thereby increasing the Sunni jihadist militant group’s operational capabilities. In this context, the October 13 IS-claimed rocket attack on a US base in al-Shaddadi is particularly notable given its rarity. However, the event is not indicative of new capabilities, particularly considering the low sophistication of the modus operandi of the attack. FORECAST: Nonetheless, the symbolism of the target will likely further bolster the confidence of IS militants operating in the country. Therefore, the coming days will likely witness a further increase in IS activity in northeastern Syria. This development may also lead to further international criticism of the Trump administration’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria, particularly considering the US President’s earlier statement that IS had been “defeated in Syria”.
- Avoid nonessential travel to Damascus at this time while maintaining heightened vigilance and adhering to standard security precautions regarding the threat of militant attacks and potential airstrikes. In addition, it is advised to avoid all travel to the vicinity of military installations due to the potential for Israeli Air Force (IAF) airstrikes.
- Avoid all travel to outlying areas and cities including Homs, Hama, and Idlib due to persistent fighting and heightened risk of kidnapping targeting foreigners, particularly in combat zones and rebel-held areas.
- Avoid all travel to the border area with Israel given the persistent risk of Israeli Air Force (IAF) and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strikes targeting positions in the region.
- Avoid all travel to the Kurdish-controlled areas in northern and eastern Syria, including Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, in light of the persistence of near-daily acts of militancy by jihadist militant operatives in these regions.
- Those seeking to enter Syria are advised to confirm the status of their crossing points and final destinations, remaining aware of recent kidnapping incidents and the nature of military forces deployed in those areas.
- Those remaining in Aleppo should minimize movement within the city and avoid all travel to the cities western and northwestern districts given the persistence of indiscriminate mutual artillery shelling between militant groups and government forces. An escalation of armed conflict remains possible.
- Those continuing to operate in Damascus and Aleppo should ensure that contingency and emergency evacuation plans are updated due to the remaining potential for a deterioration of the security situation.
- Avoid non-essential travel to government-controlled areas, including Latakia and Tartus, given the prevalence of significant anti-western sentiments, as well as a latent threat of militant attacks.
- In case overland travel between Damascus and Latakia cannot be avoided, we currently recommend crossing out of Syria via the Damascus-Beirut Highway and crossing back via the Coastal Road.
- In the event that a security checkpoint is encountered, act respectfully and patiently, while cooperating fully with security personnel. Refrain from photographing security personnel or documenting events.
- As a general rule, nationals from North America and Europe are advised to maintain a low profile throughout Syria given increased negative sentiment against various foreign governments among broad segments of the populace. In government-controlled areas, strictly refrain from discussing politically sensitive topics or making comments critical of government and political institutions, as this may lead to prosecution or arrest.