23.12.2015: Control of terrain in Syria

The direct intervention of Russia in Syria (September 30) has shifted battleground momentum in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supporting the regime to mount renewed offensives against opposition-held terrain throughout Western Syria, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).


October 15 – The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and associated proxy forces launched in Aleppo Province (Syria) a multipronged offensive against rebel-held positions in the southern countryside of Aleppo City, threatening the strategic M5 Highway.

In October ISIS, temporarily severed the vulnerable regime ground line of communication to Aleppo City, disrupting ongoing operations in Southern Aleppo Province and engaged in back-and-forth battles over the town of Mahin (Eastern Qalamoun Mountains), threatening to disrupt the M5 Highway between Damascus and Homs City. ISIS currently retains its position in Mahin despite the deployment of Russian helicopter gunships to the region.

November 5 – Rebel factions seized Morek (Northern Hama Province), securing a strategic position directly north of Hama City.

November 10 – Pro-regime forces relieved the besieged Kuweires Airbase in Eastern Aleppo Province in a symbolic victory that positioned the regime to exploit future U.S.-led coalition operations against ISIS along the Syrian-Turkish border.

November 13 – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed force composed primarily of Syrian Kurds, seized control over Al-Hawl along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The operation occurred on the same day as the seizure of Sinjar in Northern Iraq, restricting ISIS’s freedom of movement between Mosul and ar-Raqqa City. The SDF are now advancing towards the key ISIS-held crossroads town of Shaddadi in Southern Hasaka Province. Initial mobilizations have also been reported for future operations to seize the ISIS-controlled Tishreen Dam along the Euphrates River, as well as the northern outskirts of ar-Raqqa City.

ISIS has control over a new zone in Southwestern Dera’a Province, reflecting that Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk constitutes an unofficial ISIS affiliate in Southern Syria.

Regime forces have struggled to repel repeated incursions by ISIS into Central Syria, despite the presence of Russian airpower.

The regime also achieved tactical advances against the opposition in Northeastern Latakia Province and parts of Northern Hama Province, as well as the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

Source: ISW – Control of terrain in Syria , 23 December 2015


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