Ceasefire cuts violence in western Syria by 37%
An analysis by global intelligence firm IHS has found an overall reduction of 37% in the number of violent incidents recorded in western Syria in the two weeks since the implementation of the ceasefire agreement on Feb. 27.
The finding is based on the number of daily incidents recorded by the IHS Conflict Monitor team in local news, social media, and IHS’ network of in-country sources. The data offers insights into the actions of more than 3,000 armed factions on the ground in the Syrian conflict.
Despite an overall reduction of 37%, IHS says the effectiveness of the ceasefire varies greatly between provinces and various military units involved in the war. The ceasefire has had the greatest impact on fighting in Quneitra (-82%), Latakia (-71%), and Aleppo (-50%) provinces, but fighting has increased in Idlib (+219%) and Homs (+11%), where there is a strong presence of groups excluded from the ceasefire, including Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib and the Islamic State in Palmyra, Homs.
The overall number of violent incidents involving Syrian government forces in western Syria has reduced by 54% in the two weeks following the ceasefire agreement, IHS said. It has been particularly effective in southern Syria, where fighting between government forces and Sunni insurgents has decreased by 68% in Dar’a, and 95% in Quneitra, and there has been a complete cessation of Russian airstrikes.
However, has been a substantial increase in fighting by Sunni groups that support the ceasefire against rival Sunni factions that do not support the ceasefire, or have been excluded from it. This is leading to increasing divisions between the more ‘moderate’ factions, and those with a more sectarian or Islamist agenda that want to continue fighting against the Alawite-dominated government. The latter are being pushed closer to co-operating with radical jihadist groups that are excluded from the ceasefire.
A collapse of the peace talks and return to fighting against the Syrian government would probably lead to renewed arrangements between Jabhat al-Nusra and other more moderate Sunni factions in Idlib and Hama provinces against the common enemy of the Assad government, according to IHS. This would probably also reduce budding popular protests against Nusra, which have emerged in recent weeks.
Jabhat al-Nusra remains one of the most powerful rebel factions in northern Syria, and would resume a critical role in the fight against the government. They would probably take advantage of a return to focusing on the government to assassinate the leaders of more moderate factions that could pose a threat to them in the future, IHS said.