The map of military influence in Syria for January 2019 showed a slight change in the overall ratios of control among most of the conflicting forces compared to the ratios recorded at the end of 2018. January witnessed some notable events with the Syrian Democratic Forces gaining control over more villages in the Hajin area, one of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) last bastions east of the Euphrates River. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham gained control over all the sources of power and wealth in northern Syria at the expense of the National Liberation Front.
According to the monthly map published by Jusoor Center for Studies, the percentage of areas under Syrian regime control remained similar to the rate recorded last month (60.3%). Similarly, the areas under Syrian opposition factions’ control remained unchanged. Opposition factions have maintained control over 10.3% of Syrian territory since the beginning of August 2018.
The Syrian Democratic Forces managed to expand its control over territory to reach 27.9% compared to 27.7% as recorded last month.
The percentage of areas under ISIS control fell to 1.5%, compared with 1.67% in December. The percentage is the lowest rate since the Caliphate was declared.
The Northern Area
On the first day of 2019, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham launched an extensive military and security campaign on several of the National Liberation Front components, which continued for nearly 15 days. The campaign ended with the Hayat gaining military and security control over the Nur al-Din al-Zenki Movement’s strongholds west of Aleppo, Ahrar al-Sham’s strongholds north west of Hama and Suqour al-Sham Brigades’ strongholds south of Idlib. Administratively and in terms of services, the Hayat subjected these areas to the authority of the Syrian Salvation Government. The Hayat later rescinded some of its decisions and allowed the Ahrar al-Sham Movement to return to Sahl al-Ghab (al-Ghab Plain), after diminishing its powers in the region. The Hayat also allowed the Suquor al-Sham Brigades to remain in its areas but only after undermining its powers as well. The Hayat opened the possibility for the brigades and military groups operating in western Aleppo to join the Sham Legion.
The latest campaign resulted in the Hayat tightening its grip on the sources of power and wealth in the reduced escalation area in Idlib province and its environs. The Hayat gained control of key resources including internal crossings with Syrian regime controlled areas, the Olive Branch campaign areas, the Euphrates Shield areas and external crossings with Turkey. It also gained control also over the international highways connecting Damascus to Aleppo and Lattakia to Aleppo.
The Eastern Area
The Syrian Democratic Forces completed their military operations in the last phase of the al-Jazeera Storm Battle launched in May 2018. The forces managed to gain complete control over the towns of al-Shaafah and al-Susah in ISIS’s last main stronghold east of the Euphrates River. ISIS now only controls the villages of al-Marashidah and Bo Badran. The International Coalition forces have started negotiations with ISIS commanders and elements for them to hand themselves over voluntarily.