In Idlib, some militant organisations have withdrawn from the DMZ set up by Turkey and Russia. Simultaneously, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are continuing their operation against ISIS in the Hajin area in Deir ez-Zour.
The two main security focuses in Syria are centered around the ceasefire agreement and demilitarised zone in the Greater Idlib region and the fight against ISIS in the area of Hajin, near the Iraqi border in Deir ez-Zour Province.
Russia and Turkey have reportedly extended their timeline for the implementation of the demilitarised zone in Idlib. The region has seen relative calm since the implementation of the demilitarised zone, despite the refusal of rebel groups such as Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) to explicitly withdraw from the zone, as stipulated by the agreement. The risk of immediate escalation, nevertheless, appears to be low, despite the highly volatile nature of the region.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been making advances against ISIS in the Hajin pocket in eastern Deir ez-Zour over the past few months. Nevertheless, operations in recent days have slowed down as ISIS began to launch counter attacks, which in many cases amounted to grave crimes as the terrorist group recently kidnapped dozens of families who were taken to Hajin by force. The attacks reportedly targeted the SDF positions north of Hajin and around Baghuz Fawqani and Sousah. ISIS also announced that it executed five individuals, allegedly for spying for the SDF.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a sub-unit of the general military coalition of the SDF, is continuing its offensives against the Turkish-backed rebel groups in Afrin, in the north-west of Syria. These attacks are considered to be a retaliation for the invasion of Afrin by Turkey and its allied rebel forces back in March 2018.
With regards to the humanitarian situation, the UN is cooperating with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to send an assistance convoy to the Ruqban Refugee Camp in the Syrian Desert next week. The joint UN-SARC delivery is planned to bring relief to some 50,000 people who are stranded in the camp. The delivery of aid would be a positive development for the camp, which last received assistance in January 2018.