ISIS recaptured the historic city of Palmyra in Eastern Homs Province on December 11 following the withdrawal of pro-regime forces, marking the first seizure of a major urban center by ISIS in Iraq and Syria since ISIS
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.
The U.S. Anti-ISIS Campaign has inadvertently emboldened select factions of Kurds in Iraq and Syria in a manner that threatens to exacerbate preexisting political and ethnic divisions, stoke regional conflict, and disrupt current momentum against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. risks the long-term failure of its mission if the coalition proves unable to reduce tensions along these seams and rebalance its campaign to incorporate a wider variety of partner forces on the ground.
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.
Pro-regime forces backed by heavy airstrikes seized the Masakin Hanano, Jabal Badro, Sakhur, and Haydariyah Districts of Eastern Aleppo City on November 26 - 27, recapturing nearly a third of the remaining urban pocket held by opposition forces.
The composition and behavior of the force that recaptures ar-Raqqah City will in part determine the long-term success of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS campaign in Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the U.S.’s most effective partner fighting ISIS in Syria, but it has limitations that risk undermining the gains it makes on the ground. The SDF, although dominated by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), is not monolithic.
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.