Opposition forces and civilians began to evacuate from Eastern Aleppo City on December 15 following bilateral negotiations between Russia and Turkey. Opposition forces also agreed on medical evacuations from Fu'ah and Kefraya in Idlib Province after Iran threatened to collapse the agreement. Meanwhile, ISIS recaptured the city of Palmyra in Eastern Homs Province on December 11, marking the first seizure of a major urban center by ISIS in Iraq and Syria since May 2015
Syria Situation Report
Pro-regime forces backed by heavy airstrikes seized at least fifteen districts in Eastern Aleppo City including large parts of the Old City of Aleppo, shrinking the pocket held by opposition forces by more than seventy-five percent. Meanwhile, Russia and the U.S. met in Germany to discuss a potential deal to evacuate all civilians and opposition fighters from Eastern Aleppo City except for members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
Pro-regime forces seized at least five opposition-held districts in Eastern Aleppo City on November 26 - 28 following a heavy air campaign that began on November 15. Meanwhile, Turkey stated that an alleged regime airstrike killed at least three soldiers of the Turkish Armed Forces participating in Operation Euphrates Shield near Al-Bab in Northern Aleppo Province on November 24.
Russia announced the start of a “major operation” allegedly targeting ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Western Syria. The operation included fighter jets launched from the Russian Aircraft Carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as well as cruise missile strikes by naval warships and strategic bombers. Local activists also reported the resumption of intense airstrikes against Aleppo City.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched ‘Operation Euphrates Wrath’ on November 6 with a stated goal to isolate the IS stronghold of A-Raqqa City. The announcement comes after the U.S. and Turkey reached an initial agreement on November 5 to allow the Syrian Kurdish YPG to participate in the isolation phase of the offensive. In exchange, Sunni Arabs will lead the final effort to “seize, hold, and govern” A-Raqqa City.
The Jaysh al-Fatah Operations Room - a coalition led by Jabhat Fatah a-Sham and Ahrar a-Sham - and the Fatah Halab Operations Room launched a new offensive to break the siege of Eastern Aleppo City on October 28. Meanwhile, Russia began a new ten-hour ‘humanitarian pause’ on November 4 in order to allow civilians and opposition fighters to evacuate the besieged districts of Eastern Aleppo City.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with counterparts from Russia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, and Egypt in Lausanne, Switzerland on October 15 to open a new multilateral initiative to end the Syrian Civil War. Meanwhile, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu announced a temporary halt to pro-regime airstrikes in Eastern Aleppo City on October 18 in preparation for a series of three consecutive eleven-hour ‘humanitarian pauses’ scheduled for October 20 - 22.
The U.S. suspended all bilateral engagement with Russia on Syria on October 3 in response to the an ongoing regime offensive on Aleppo City. The breakdown comes amidst reports that White House is considering stronger action against the regime, including potential limited military strikes against regime targets. These developments set the stage for further conflict with Russia in Syria.
Violence in Aleppo City spiked to new highs after the collapse of a nationwide ‘cessation of hostilities’ on September 19. The ceasefire marked a core component of a wide-ranging deal on the Syrian Civil War reached by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on September 9. No initiative appears likely to prevent the ongoing escalation, pointing towards a new wave of violence that will benefit ISIS, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, and other Salafi-Jihadist Groups.