This week in northern Syria
#33: May 9 - May 15
05/09/23: The SNA’s Third Legion - led by the al-Jabhah al-Shamiyah and Jaysh al-Islam factions - repulsed a small SDF (or HRE) attack on its front line positions south of Mare’, northern Aleppo. The Third Legion claimed to have killed and wounded several SDF fighters though this remains unconfirmed. The group did publish photos of a captured Russian-made thermobaric rocket launcher and four RPG rounds.
05/09/23: Syria’s public al-Furat University reported that a group of around two dozen SDF fighters seized the school’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities campus in al-Hasakah city (located here), evicting 22 faculty members temporarily living in student housing there during the school semester. While the school is government-run, this campus is located within the SDF-controlled part of al-Hasakah city, in close proximity to several SDF/AANES-run hospitals, al-Hasakah’s Central Prison - now under SDF control, a coalition base, recently dug SDF defensive tunnels, and, according to al-Furat University, an SDF military headquarters directly to the west.
05/11/23: The Kurdistan Regional Government closed the Semalka/Faysh Khabour border crossing from the KRI into Rojava/northeastern Syria, in addition to the Suwaidiyah or al-Walid crossing located further to the south. This was likely related to several recent events occurring within the broader KDP vs. PKK intra-Kurdish rivalry, including the KDP’s arrest of a PKK member at the Erbil airport on May 2nd (conflicting reports over whether she was handed over to Turkish or Iraqi authorities), and the AANES/SDF’s reported blocking of an ENKS delegation from entering Iraqi Kurdistan to participate in the inaugural ceremony of the KDP’s new Barzani National Museum.
05/11/23: A Turkish drone strike targeted a car on the M4 highway in the Kobanî countryside, reportedly killing two individuals. One has since been confirmed as a YPJ fighter originally from the Kurdish city of Amed/Diyarbakir in Turkey (see below for details), while the other victim has been identified as a man named Fu’ad Muhammed Haman, reportedly employed as a driver.
05/12/23: Demonstrations cropped up in numerous towns across Idlib and opposition-controlled northern Aleppo against HTS. This was prompted by HTS raids last week in the town of Deir Hassan against members of the international Islamist movement Hizb al-Tahrir, which maintains a fringe following in some parts of northern Syria including the northern Aleppo town of Sawran. The protests also folded in calls against international normalization with the Asad regime.
05/15/23: The SDF’s Anti-Terror Units (YAT) announced a series of joint operations against Islamic State targets carried out alongside Coalition forces and the Iraqi Kurdistan PUK’s ‘Counter Terror Group.’ This included a May 13th raid against an IS cell in the town of al-Karamah, eastern al-Raqqah governorate, a May 14th airdrop targeting an IS cell in al-Raqqah city, in addition to an operation in Deir ez-Zour announced earlier in the week. These raids themselves are rather standard, though the participation of the PUK’s special forces is a recent phenomena part of a broader growing public relationship.
05/15/23: The Civil Police of al-Bab removed a banner commemorating slain media activist Muhammed Abu Ghanoum from the entrance of the city’s main park, drawing public anger. Abu Ghanoum was assassinated last fall by members of SNA faction Furqat al-Hamzah. His murders were never held accountable, instead acquitted by the faction itself rather than the local judicial system.
05/15/23: The Syrian regime agreed to a three month extension for the use of the Bab al-Salamah and al-Ra’i border crossings in UN aid distribution. The use of these crossings into SNA/Turkish-controlled northern Aleppo had been allowed in response to February’s earthquake. Since July 2021 UN aid to non-government controlled areas had been restricted to the Bab al-Hawa crossing into Idlib via Russian veto threats at the UN Security Council.
05/15/23: The ENKS executive committee received US Special Envoy Nicholas Granger. According to the ENKS, its members voiced grievances regarding the aforementioned blocking of its delegation from entering the KRI by the AANES. This is part of Granger’s broader visit to northeastern Syria where he is currently meeting with various local actors.
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