Since March, large-scale violence has continued in Syria. Despite this, no major cities have changed hands - yet there have been important changes to control of smaller towns in two different regions. Here's the updated conflict map, plus a summary of recent territorial changes.
Soon after our last update, rebel groups continued making small gains in Syria's far southeast. In mid-March, they captured a military intelligence compound in the town of Shagara, and three days later the same group seized the town of Khan Arnabeh a bit to the north. Both towns lie close to the Golan Heights, a disputed territory controlled by Israel.
A narrow strip of land on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights ceasefire line has been demilitarized under the protection of U.N. peacekeepers since 1973, but even this area has seen fighting since late last year. Rebels in the zone briefly took control of the border crossing with Israel early this month, part of a series of events that has put the peacekeeping mission's future in jeopardy.
Soon after taking Khan Arnabeh, the same rebel group achieved yet another major victory: the capture of a major air defense base just east of the southern Syrian city of Daraa. Soon they and other rebel groups had effective control of all border crossings with Jordan.
By the end of the month, rebel forces were also in control of Dael, an important town north of Daraa city. It was only in May that the Syrian army began getting its foothold back outside of Daraa, seizing the town of Khirbet Gazaleh near Dael.
Country Name: |
• Syria (English)
• Sūriyya/Sūryā (Arabic)
• Syrian Arab Republic (English)
• al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabīyah as-Sūriyyah (Arabic)
The more important change in control came early this month, when the Syrian government and allied forces captured Qusayr after a long and difficult battle. Qusayr is a strategic town between the city of Homs and the border with Lebanon, and saw prolonged fighting earlier in the war before coming under rebel control a year ago. Since Qusayr's recapture, other nearby towns have also been seized by the government.
Hezbollah and Lebanon
In the battle for Qusayr, Syria's army received major military support from Hezbollah, a Shiite militia from Lebanon which has long supported President Bashar al-Assad. After that victory, Hezbollah has become more overtly involved in the fighting within Syria. Meanwhile, Lebanon is being slowly dragged into its neighbor's civil war, with one Lebanese town even coming under attack from the Syrian military two weeks ago.
Battles Continue in Major Cities
Syria's biggest population centers continue to be centers of intense fighting as well, with Aleppo still divided between multiple groups (see a collaborative map of control) and once-rebel-dominated Homs now reportedly 80% government-controlled. At the same time, the capital city of Damascus continues to see heavy back and forth fighting in its suburbs, and in recent months rebels have even begun moving into the city itself.
Activity on the Coast
Last month, the town of Bayda near Syria's Mediterranean coast became infamous for a brutal massacre committed by government or allied forces against Sunni civilians, some of whom had been rebel sympathizers (rebels were also accused of a sectarian massacre in a few weeks later). The Bayda massacre was reportedly a response to an attack by local rebels on a bus carrying pro-government militiamen, a rare and possibly unprecedented instance of armed rebel activity Syria's coastal region. This area, which is the traditional homeland of President Assad's minority Alawite sect, has been so far spared from rebel-on-army fighting, though it has been the scene of unarmed protests violently suppressed by the government.
Adjustments to the Map
Two adjustments have been made to the Syria control map in this update which do not necessarily reflect actual changes to the situation since last time. First, the city of Hama has been colored all black rather than black and red, to reflect the fact that there has recently been little evidence of significant rebel control within the city (however, back-and-forth fighting continues outside the city in Hama province).
The second adjustment is to Zabadani, in the mountains between Damascus and the border with Lebanon. This town has been contested since early in the war, sometimes falling under rebel control and other times to the government. The most recent information suggests that rebels have nearly complete control of the town itself, despite being surrounded by government forces.
Graphic of the Syrian flag is in the public domain (source).