By Alexandra Gutowski and the ISW Research Team
Key Takeaway: ISIS launched offensives against the Syrian regime in Deir ez Zour, eastern Homs province, and eastern Damascus province in January 2017, exploiting the regime’s focus on Aleppo and attempting to offset or divert regime operations near al-Bab. Regime forces began to reverse ISIS’s gains in Homs province on February 14. ISIS lost additional territory in Mosul to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in early 2017. ISIS also lost al-Bab, Syria to Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield on February 23. ISIS may increasingly infiltrate opposition-held territory in northwest Syria as U.S.-backed, Kurdish-dominated Operation Euphrates Shield threatens its control of Raqqa. ISIS-linked opposition group Liwa al-Aqsa conducted numerous attacks in northern Hama and southern Idlib provinces against opposition groups in early 2017, especially those affiliated with al-Qaeda’s de facto affiliate in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. Liwa al-Aqsa subsequently negotiated a withdrawal from villages in northern Hama province, which may remain an attack zone for ISIS. ISIS’s affiliate in southwest Syria, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid, also seized towns in Dera’a province in February, exploiting the focus of local opposition groups on an offensive in Dera’a City. ISW is placing a watch on ISIS in Damascus province and in Jordan, where ISIS may have latent potential to launch attacks in response to further losses in Raqqa and Mosul. A depiction of ISIS sanctuary in Jordan is forthcoming.