By ISW Syria Team and Syria Direct
Al-Qaeda resumed large-scale offensive operations against the regime following a consolidation phase in Northern Syria. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham - the successor of Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - and Ahrar al-Sham launched a major operation against pro-regime forces in Northern Hama Province on March 21. ISW has previously assessed that Al-Qaeda would launch operations against Hama City in order to destabilize the regime and achieve symbolic resonance among Salafi-Jihadists due to the 1982 Hama Massacre. Current conditions remain unpromising for the Geneva Talks on the Syrian Civil War that resumed on March 23. The likely failure of these negotiations will provide additional impetus to Al-Qaeda’s narrative that opposition groups should abandon the negotiating table.
The U.S. accelerated its campaign to isolate and seize Ar-Raqqa City alongside the Syrian Kurdish YPG. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an operation to seize the Tabqa Dam west of Ar-Raqqa City on March 22 with extensive support from the U.S. including airstrikes, artillery fire, attack helicopters, and embedded advisors. The U.S. also transferred at least 500 SDF fighters to the southern bank of the Euphrates River via helicopter to cut the Aleppo - Ar-Raqqa Highway. The operation - which will likely provoke a negative response from Turkey - began on the same day as a two-day ministerial conference of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Washington D.C.
These graphics mark the latest installment of our Syria SITREP Map made possible through a partnership between the Institute for the Study of War and Syria Direct. The graphic depicts significant recent developments in the Syrian Civil War. The control of terrain represented on the graphic is accurate as of March 30, 2017.