Syria: updates on events from around the country (Dec 29 – Jan 4)

Dimashq: Recent clashes between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and assorted rebel forces in the West Ghouta have focused on the crucial town of Wadi Barada, which is home to Ain al-Fijieh spring which provides clean water to the city of Damascus. After the water pump in Wadi Barada was damaged by unknown explosives, the SAA besieged the town and began a new operation to drive the rebels out. The aquifer of Ain al-Fijieh is the city’s largest water source, and the cutting of the water flow has created a crisis in urban Damascus as water supplies dwindle. Farther to the south, SAA and FSA representatives negotiated a deal that will see rebel forces withdraw from the towns of Kafr Hawar, Baytimeh, and Beit Sabir. The deal, reached after three days of negotiations between the two sides, will free up several hundred government soldiers for combat duty elsewhere in Rif Dimashq and on the Qalamoun front farther south.

SAA soldiers and armor mobilize for combat in the Wadi Barada region, December 30th.

Daraa: The Ahmad Abdo Martyrs Brigade clashed with Islamic State (IS) elements in several dry wadis in the eastern reaches of Daraa Governorate. At least two IS technicals were destroyed in combat in rural areas. The fronts in Daraa and Quneitra have remained relatively stable for several months.

Homs: The IS offensive against the government-held Tiyas Airbase has finally ground to a halt after IS failed to seize the airbase several times. Despite collapsing in Tadmur, the SAA and NDF at the airbase have managed to hold their ground and have recaptured the village of Sharifah, securing the supply line leading to Tiyas. Although there are no current plans to recapture Tadmur, the SAA and NDF have been mobilizing forces to push back against the Islamic State and recapture the village of Tiyas and its pumping station.

Government rocket artillery opens fire on IS positions in far northern Homs province, unknown date.

Deir-ez-Zor: IS and the SAA have severely clashed several times in the districts of al-Sina’a and al-Bughiliyah, with no major advances by either side. Mortar shelling and airstrikes have taken significant attrition tolls on both sides.

North Aleppo: The Euphrates Shield operation spearheaded by Turkish military forces has ground to a halt, as a recent attempt to recapture previously seized outskirts of al-Bab city have been met with mixed results. Ahrar al-Sham forces captured the lost Daghilyash village from IS, and the al-Bab Youth Housing Complex was secured again, but Turkish forces have lost at least six tanks and several other armored vehicles. It is likely that Turkish air and artillery support to the operation will be increasing in the coming weeks, as urban fighting continues to take its toll on the TSK and FSA forces.

IS drone footage shows destruction of buildings from Turkish airstrikes and artillery, January 2nd.

Ar-Raqqa: The Euphrates Wrath operation led by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has progressed fairly smoothly despite moderate casualties among SDF ranks. On the 1st, the SDF and YPG allies captured al-Mahmudli and the high ground around the village. On the 2nd, the villages of Shali and Nebiye fell, and Tall Juwazye followed soon after. On the 3rd, Tareq, Himarayan, and al-Nahud villages fell. IS retreated from al-Dalil and Birsana soon after, yielding control to the YPG. Although there is still some distance left to ar-Raqqa, the SDF and YPG have been advancing at a steady pace and will be nearing the city soon.

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