The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center At the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center
Following is an overview of the situation in Syria:
- In the “pocket” along the Euphrates Valley, ISIS operatives halted the SDF forces and regained control of two villages in the southern part of their control area. In the ITIC’s assessment, this is only a temporary success for ISIS, and the military pressure on ISIS operatives in the “pocket” is expected to be renewed. In the meantime, ISIS operatives have reportedly initiated negotiations with the SDF and the International Coalition in order to arrange for their operatives to leave the “pocket.” These negotiations have proved unsuccessful (up to now). The position of the SDF and the Coalition is that ISIS must surrender unconditionally. According to an announcement by US officials, the SDF is holding some 850 foreign fighters who joined ISIS, and their return to their home countries remains a challenge requiring coordinated international efforts.
- In the city of Manbij and its environs there has been no change on the ground. At the political and propaganda level, there are struggles between the various forces regarding the future control of the city. Residents of the city held a demonstration which, in the ITIC’s assessment, was organized by the Kurds. The demonstrators expressed their opposition to the Turkish involvement and the establishment of a Turkish-sponsored “safe zone” that would include Manbij. On the other hand, the Turkish presidential spokesperson (February 4, 2019) announced that Turkey and Russia had reached agreement on the roadmap for Manbij, whose details are still unknown.
- In the Idlib area, clashes continued between the Syrian army and the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and other jihadi organizations. Talks are underway between Russia and Turkey about ways to deal with the Idlib problem, in view of the entrenchment of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and the nonfulfillment of the agreements between Russia and Turkey that were established at the Sochi summit. According to Russian media reports, the negotiators discussed the possibility of a military operation being carried out in the Idlib region by Russia and Turkey or, alternatively, the Syrian army.