Friday, June 2, 2017

Syria Situation Report: May 19 - June 1, 2017

By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct

ISIS launched a wave of spectacular attacks in Western Syria prior to the start of Ramadan on May 26. ISIS detonated one VBIED targeting the majority-Alawite Zahraa District of Homs City on May 23. On the same day, pro-regime forces intercepted two bombers wearing SVESTS near the Shi’a Sayyida Zeinab Shrine in Damascus. ISIS also conducted a double SVEST - IED attack targeting a meeting of Salafi-Jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham in Eastern Idlib Province on May 22. These attacks follow a major ground attack by ISIS against two majority-Ismaili towns in Eastern Hama Province on 18 MAY. The attack wave demonstrates that ISIS retains the capability and intent to intensify its operations against both pro-regime and opposition forces in Western Syria despite its continued withdrawal from large stretches of Southern and Central Syria towards Eastern Syria. 

NATO leaders agreed to formally join the Anti-ISIS Coalition in Iraq and Syria during the NATO Summit in Brussels on May 25. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the agreement sends a “strong signal” of “commitment to fight global terrorism” but stressed that the bloc will not “engage in combat operations” against ISIS. NATO will instead expand its "airspace management" and aerial refueling mission for coalition aircraft as well as the deployment of special forces teams to train local partner forces. NATO will also establish a "terrorism intelligence cell" to improve information-sharing on foreign fighters. The decision likely aimed to meet the priorities of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the value of the alliance while stressing the need to expand its counter-terrorism capabilities. The measure remains largely symbolic.

This graphic marks the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. This graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of May 31, 2017.