Syria Situation Report: May 19 - May 31, 2017

Welcome to the latest installment of the Syria SITREP highlighting key developments in the Syrian Civil War. The SITREP Map is made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. To download the SITREP Map as a PDF, see below. Here's what happened in Syria this week:

May 29 - 31: Pro-Regime Forces Reportedly Deploy Reinforcements to Southern Syria: Pro-regime forces, including the Fifth Storming Corps backed by Russia as well as Iraqi and Afghan Shi’a Militias, allegedly deployed from Aleppo City and Damascus to Daraa City in Southern Syria according to opposition sources. Opposition groups claimed to repel at least one large pro-regime convoy en route to Deraa City on May 30 by shelling the convoy with rockets.

May 29: Final Wave of Evacuees Depart Besieged Opposition-Held District in Damascus: Buses evacuated the final wave of more than 1,000 fighters and civilians from the besieged opposition-held Barzeh District of Damascus
to Idlib Province under a wider reconciliation deal brokered by Russia. Activists estimated that more than 4,000 fighters and civilians departed from Barzeh District to Idlib Province and Eastern Ghouta since the start of the deal on May 8. IS and Hay’at Tahrir a-Sham (HTS) allegedly reached a similar deal to leave the Yarmouk Camp and Hajar al-Aswad Districts of Southern Damascus on May 21.

May 25: IS Withdraws
 From Large Stretches of Eastern
 Qalamoun: Pro-regime forces seized
 full control over several towns northeast of Damascus along Palmyra Highway after
 IS withdrew from large parts of
 Eastern Qalamoun. IS used Eastern Qalamoun
 as a staging ground for operations
 against Damascus and the Syrian-Lebanese Border. IS has withdrawn from large stretches of southern and central Syria since March 2017.

May 23: Regime Aircraft Begin Returning to Shayrat Airbase:
 Regime warplanes and personnel 
reportedly began returning to Shayrat Airbase, south of Homs in central Syria, according to anonymous US defense officials. The regime
 relocated most of its fixed-wing 
aircraft to Damascus and Bassel al-Assad International Airport
 (Latakia) after strikes by the US 
targeted Shayrat Airbase on 
April 7. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly issued orders to return all aircraft to their home airfields in early May 2017.

May 23: IS Claims Attacks on Pro-Regime Forces in Homs City and Damascus: IS detonated a vehicle-borne IED targeting the majority-Alawite Zahraa District in Homs City, killing at least five individuals and wounding more than thirty others. Meanwhile, pro-regime forces at a checkpoint intercepted a truck carrying two IS fighters wearing suicide vests near the majority-Shi’a Sayyida Zeinab District in Damascus, leading both bombers to prematurely detonate without causing any casualties.

May 20: Regime Claims Full Control Over Homs City: Buses evacuated the final wave of 400 fighters and civilians from the besieged opposition-held Wa’er District of Homs City to the Jarabulus district in Aleppo Province under a wider reconciliation deal brokered by Russia. Activists estimated that a total of 15,000 to 20,000 fighters and civilians departed from Wa’er District north to Idlib Province and northeast to Aleppo Province since the deal began on March 18. Russia later deployed roughly 50 to 150 Military Police to Wa’er District.

May 21: IS Claims Dual Suicide Vest IED Attack Targeting Ahrar a-Sham in Idlib Province: IS detonated a motorcycle-borne IED and suicide vest targeting a meeting of Salafi-Jihadist group Ahrar a-Sham in Tal Touqan in east Idlib Province, killing at least twenty-five fighters including the local emir. IS-affiliated Amaaq News claimed responsibility for the attack, marking an inflection-point in the long-standing assassination campaign by IS in Idlib Province targeting Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar a-Sham.

May 30: U.S. Confirms First Shipment of Small Arms to Syrian Kurdish YPG: The US Department of Defense confirmed the first delivery of small arms including rifles and anti-tank missiles to the Syrian-Kurdish YPG for operations against IS in Raqqa City. The White House authorized plans to directly arm the YPG in Raqqa City on May 8, over objections from Turkey. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces advanced to the eastern outskirts of Raqqa City after seizing at least eight villages from IS and establishing control over the nearby Ba’ath Dam.

May 31: Russia Launches Cruise Missiles Against IS in Eastern Homs Province: Russian Mediterranean Task Force Grigorovich-Class Frigate Admiral Essen and Kilo-Class Submarine Krasnodar launched four cruise missiles targeting IS near Palmyra in east Homs Province. Unverified geolocations placed the strikes at the T3 Pumping Station east of Palmyra. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the strikes targeted logistics points and arms depots for fighters deploying from Raqqa City to east Homs Province. Russia reportedly gave advance notice of the strikes to the U.S., Turkey, and Israel. Russia last conducted cruise missile strikes in Syria in November 2016.

May 19 - 31: Pro-Regime and Opposition Forces Continue Skirmishes Near Al-Tanf Despite U.S. Airstrike: Pro-regime forces continued to advance along two axes against opposition groups backed by the US and Jordan at Al-Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi Border despite an airstrike by the US targeting a pro-regime convoy in the area on May 18. Pro-regime forces seized the Zarqa Checkpoint fifteen miles north of Al-Tanf on the Damascus-Baghdad Highway on May 19. Pro-regime forces also advanced in east Suwayda Province along the Syrian-Jordanian Border. Opposition sources stated that the US and Jordan delivered additional weapons and ammunition, including anti-tank missiles to their vetted opposition groups. Opposition groups later claimed the commencement of two separate offensives - ‘Desert Volcano’ on May 22 and ‘Battle for Our Land’ on May 31 - aimed at “expelling” pro-regime forces from the rural desert of Deraa Province in central Syria. Russia allegedly conducted airstrikes against opposition forces near the Zaza checkpoint on May 31.

Click HERE to view the PDF.