Friday, December 28, 2012

Syria Uprising Map: December 2012 (#8)

There are newer versions of this map available. To see them, view all Syria updates.

 In recent months, Syria's rebels have continued to tip the balance of the country's civil war toward their favor, with various local victories and a few further extensions of their territorial control. Below is the updated conflict map, plus a summary of recent territorial changes.

Map of rebel activity and control in Syria's Civil War (Free Syrian Army, Kurdish groups, and others), updated for December 2012. Includes recent locations of conflict, including Salqin, Harem, Beer Ajam, Tishrin Dam, and Ras al-Ayn.
Activity and cities held by rebels and other groups in Syria, updated for December 2012. Map by Evan Centanni, starting from this blank map by German Wikipedia user NordNordWest. License: CC BY-SA
Rebels Consolidate Control in Northwest
Soon after our last update, the rebels of the Free Syrian Army announced the capture of Salqin in the northwestern province of Idlib. This was the first step in a push to close the Syrian government's last pocket of control along the Turkish border in Idlib - a goal reached just this Tuesday when the rebels finally stormed the loyalist border town of Harem. This leaves Idlib city and the town of Jisr al-Shughur as the Syrian army's last major strongholds in the northern part of the province.

Flag of Syria under the current government Country Name:  
• Syria (English)
• Sūriyya/Sūryā (Arabic)
Official Name:  
• Syrian Arab Republic (English)
• al-Jumhūriyyah al-‘Arabīyah  as-Sūriyyah (Arabic)
Capital: Damascus
Eastward Expansion and Rebels vs. Kurdish Militias
Meanwhile, rebel groups have extended their control further into Al-Raqqah and Al-Hasakah provinces in Syria's northeast. On November 8th, they reached the Kurd-dominated town of Serekani (known in Arabic as Ras al-Ayn), where they pushed out what government soldiers still remained after a Kurdish takeover earlier this year.

However, this victory was followed by several weeks of clashes between the rebels and local Kurdish militias. Much of the fighting was initiated by Islamic extremist factions among the rebels, though relations are already tense enough between Kurdish groups and the Arab-dominated Free Syrian Army.

Kurdish militia units took the events in Serekani as a cue to finish ridding other Kurdish towns of government troops, some of whom had previously been allowed to remain inside their bases despite no longer controlling the towns. These efforts also resulted in one new town, Tal Tamir, falling into Kurdish hands.

Also in the country's northeast, rebel forces overran Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River in late November. This hydro-electric dam is an important source of energy for northern Syria, and also serves as a key crossing on the main road from Aleppo to Al-Raqqah.

Renewed Fighting in Damascus and the Golan Heights
Although the Syrian capital itself remains mostly under government control, rebel activity in the surrounding suburbs has redoubled in recent months, with neighborhoods outside the city limits believed to form a patchwork of government, rebel, and undetermined control. Douma, the next largest city in Damascus's metropolitan area, is again a rebel stronghold.

Farther to the southwest, fighting has broken out in the Golan Heights region. Most of this disputed territory has been controlled by Israel since 1967, but a thin strip on the Syrian side is patrolled as a demilitarized zone by U.N. peacekeeping forces. However, last month Syrian rebels began establishing themselves in the zone, capturing local villages such as Beer Ajam. Government forces ignored the strip's demilitarized status and entered with tanks to combat the rebels, leading to exchanges of fire with the Israeli military after Syrian shells flew over the international border.

Graphic of Syrian flag is in the public domain (source).