Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has cut a deal with Bashar al-Assad’s regime to exchange thousands of residents in Kefraya and al-Fouah, two predominately Shiite towns in the northern province of Idlib, for 1,500 prisoners held in Assad’s prisons.
Israel struck a suspected chemical weapons facility near Masyaf, Syria earlier today. The facility may have been run by the Syrian regime’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which has been sanctioned by the US government for its role in producing chemical weapons and the means to deploy them.
The State Department says there “are reportedly about 7,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria.” They have been deployed to the country to bolster Bashar al Assad’s regime.
The policy debate concerning Syria must reflect on-the-ground realities. The war is a complex, multi-sided affair with no easy solutions.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a new offensive by the Islamic State has effectively cut the city of Deir Ezzor in two. The Islamic State has battled forces loyal to the Assad regime in and around Deir Ezzor since mid-2014. The jihadis’ latest assault has exacerbated the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the city.
The Islamic State launched an offensive near the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs province on Dec. 8. The US-led coalition “destroyed a fleet” of 168 oil tanker trucks owned by the jihadists that same day. The Islamic State and the Syrian regime have repeatedly clashed in Homs province, especially at gas and oil fields that both sides seek to control.
The Islamic State launched an assault on Syrian regime positions in the Homs province earlier today. The so-called caliphate’s propaganda arm and other outlets report that Syrian government forces suffered dozens of casualties. Bashar al Assad’s men and their allies recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra in March. The two sides have repeatedly clashed in Homs, including near Palmyra, since then.
Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, is playing a major role in the rebel offensive in Hama province. The group released a video earlier today showing one of its drones dropping a small, unguided bomb on Syrian regime forces. Jund al Aqsa has endorsed Al Nusrah Front’s relaunch as Jabhat Fath al Sham (“Conquest of the Levant Front”), saying that al Qaeda’s senior leadership must have determined that it was in the best interests of the people and the jihad in Syria.
Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that Al Nusrah Front has been rebranded as Jabhat Fath Al Sham. Many have read into Julani’s statement as a formal disassociation with al Qaeda. But Julani didn’t actually say that, as his language was intentionally ambiguous. While sitting next to a longtime al Qaeda veteran from Egypt, Julani did not explicitly say that his group has broken from al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, has released a new audio message from Ayman al Zawahiri. The al Qaeda emir discusses his organization’s goal of establishing an Islamic emirate in Syria, calls for “unity” among the mujahideen, and heaps praise on Al Nusrah Front.
The Islamic State has released a set of photos documenting the “spoils” it captured from Bashar al Assad’s regime at the Shaer gas field in Homs.
The Islamic State and Bashar al Assad’s forces are once again battling for control of the Shaer gas field in Syria’s Homs province. The gas facilities have changed hands multiple times since July 2014, when the jihadists first launched an offensive in the area.
The Syrian Army claims to have retaken the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State. Bashar al Assad’s forces, backed by their Iranian and Russian allies, are battling Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s jihadists on several fronts. The Islamic State frequently claims “martyrdom operations” against Syrian regime fighters in Aleppo province, Deir Ezzor, and elsewhere.
Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham have issued eulogies for Zahran Alloush, the leader of Jaysh al Islam, who was killed in an airstrike outside of Damascus on Dec. 25. Alloush portrayed himself and his organization as “moderate” in comparison to the Islamic State, but that was not an apt description for him.
Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has posted several photos purportedly showing Russia’s airstrikes. Al Nusrah also posted two images of leaflets dropped by the Assad regime.
Photos and videos posted on social media show that Jaysh al Fateh, a coalition of several jihadist groups, has captured a number of Syrian regime checkpoints surrounding the city of Idlib.