As-Suwayda offensive (August–November 2018)

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As-Suwayda offensive (August–November 2018)
Part of the Syrian Civil War and Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War
Date6 August – 19 November 2018[6][7][8]
(3 months, 1 week and 4 days)
Suwayda and Rif Dimashq Governorates, Syria

Decisive Syrian Army victory

  • Syrian Army captures the Al-Suwayda part of the ISIL enclave[9]
  • Syrian Army captures peak of the volcanic Al-Safa plateau on 17 November[10]


 Russia (since 5 October)[1]
State of Palestine Palestine Liberation Army
Mountain Brigade[5]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Syria Brig. Gen. Suhail Abbas (WIA)[11]
Syria Mohammad Sahlab ("Abu Ali") [12]
State of Palestine Brig. Gen. Walid Mari al-Kurdi [13][14][15]
Abu Hajer Al-Shishani [16][17]
Units involved

Syrian Armed Forces

Russian Armed Forces

Eagles of the Whirlwind
Mountain Brigade

  • Rocks of Urman Battalion[5]
Military of ISIL
Unknown 1,000–1,200[19]
Casualties and losses
245 killed (per SOHR)[20] 428 killed(per SOHR)[20]

The As-Suwayda offensive (August–November 2018) began on 6 August 2018, in rural areas of the Suwayda Governorate in southeast Syria after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members committed a string of suicide bombings and gun attacks.[21]

The offensive[edit]

The Syrian Arab Army began an offensive on eastern Suwayda on 6 August 2018, around 16:00 (EET) after building up its forces in the area for several days. With its elite 4th Division at the head, the Syrian Arab Army succeeded in making progress in the eastern Badiya Desert after an intense battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during that afternoon.[22]

The Syrian Arab Army continued on the following day with field operations in the eastern neighboring province of Suwayda, on the large pocket of ISIL near the Homs border. At the head of their fourth armored division, the Syrian Arab Army started the day by attacking the Shinvan and Al-Sakiiah areas held by ISIL.[23] On 7 August, the pro-Government Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) captured and hanged a fighter of ISIL after one of his comrades executed a suicide bombing that killed at least four SSNP members.[24] On 8 August, Syrian forces continued to expel ISIL from the desert east of Suwayda in an attempt to recover the entire pocket. According to military sources, the Syrian Army, with the support of local fighters, managed to achieve further progress on several fronts; it reached the periphery of the towns of Qaisoum and Bir Maselam. The same source said that government troops were infiltrating about 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the cities of Rami and Shabka where ISIL committed a massacre on 25 July, when the group launched a sudden attack on several villages and towns east of Suwayda and slaughtered more than 200 civilians, and injured several hundred others.[25]

Siege of al-Safa[edit]

On 16 August, ISIL asked for a ceasefire with the Syrian Army.[26] ISIL offered to release the kidnapped civilians from the Sweida Governorate in exchange for safe passage to the Al-Mayadeen countryside in rural Deir Ezzor.[27] The Syrian Arab Army told the Islamic State that they will not accept anything other than a complete surrender of this mountain and the release of the 30+ civilians that were kidnapped by their fighters.[28] The Syrian army sealed off the entire Al-Safa mountain on 23 August after several days of fighting.[27]

On 24 August, the Syrian Arab Army broke through the Islamic State’s defenses at the Khirbat Hawi area, which is located at the southwestern axis of the Al-Safa Mountain.[28] On 25 August, ISIL launched a counter-offensive and managed to drive back the Syrian Arab Army troops from several points they captured the previous day.[29] At 28–29 August, the Syrian Arab Army managed to regain all lost points, along with capturing others positions from ISIL, including a strategic water dam in the Hawi Awad area.[18][30]

On 25 September, in clashes with ISIL, Brigadier General Walid al-Kurdi in charge of the Palestinian Liberation Army's special forces was killed in the Safa Volcanic field.[13]

On 2 October, ISIL executed a Druze woman named Tharwat Abu Ammar, a hostage from the 25 July Suwayda attacks, threatening to kill a whole group of captive women and children within three days if Syrian Government forces didn't call off the al-Safa offensive and release ISIL prisoners.[31] Several Druze protestors in Suwayda, including several activists and religious leaders, rallied around a government building and demanded the government to work to release the captured Druze hostages. After a failure in talks with Russian officials, the Syrian Government and ISIL set up a committee to mediate between them.[32]

Hostages released[edit]

On 20 October, ISIL reached an agreement with Syrian and Russian officials to release 6 hostages in exchange of what was reportedly 27 million dollars, with continued talks, a prisoner exchange was also agreed upon between both parties in return for ISIL releasing all hostages. According to the Russian MOD, the Syrian Arab Army reportedly rescued all the remaining hostages held by ISIL on 8 November, in a special operation north-east of Palmyra under the guidance of Russian special operations forces from Russian Reconciliation Center. Some reports stated the possibility of Russian special forces being covertly deployed in the province of al-Suwayda in order to support the Syrian Army advance on ISIS positions in the al-Safa area.[33][34][35][36][37][38]

Syrian army reaches peak of Al-Safa[edit]

On 17 November, the Syrian army managed to overrun the ISIL defenses around the peak of Al-Safa and impose control of the hilltop, killing a Daesh commander named Abu Hajer Al-Shishani.[16] The territorial control of the Syrian army of the Al-Safa volcanic field increased to 80%, with ISIL still having a presence on the western axis and several sources saying ISIL fighters were withdrawing towards eastern Homs.[10]

The Syrian army officially declared the Al-Safa field cleared on 19 November, ending the offensive with the SAA in full control of all of southern Syria for the first time since 2011, excluding Al-Tanf.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Russian Air Force launches first strikes over Syria in several days". Al-Masdar News. 5 October 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Breaking: Syrian Army, Hezbollah impose fire control over ISIS stronghold in southeast Syria". Al-Masdar News. 9 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Video footage of Syrian Army's new offensive against ISIS in southwest Syria". Al-Masdar. 9 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Leith Aboufadel (18 June 2018). "In pictures: SSNP forces crack ISIL's lines in southeast Syria". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (27 July 2018). "The Suwayda' Attacks: Interview". Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  6. ^ Islamic State loses holdout in south Syria, faces deadly air raids in east
  7. ^ [Graphic 18+] Daesh corpses litter battlefield as Syrian troops liberate key region
  8. ^ After the deal of handing over the kidnapped people, hundreds of ISIS members vanish from Tlul al-Safa after 116 days of the deadliest attack ever in al-Suwaidaa
  9. ^ "After controlling its desert, al-Suwaidaa becomes the 5th province under the control of the regime forces completely and the fate of its kidnapped people after 19 days of detention is unknown". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Syrian Army liberates most of Daesh's last bastion in southern Syria". Al-Masdar News. 17 November 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ a b ""Desert Samurai," Once Honored by Russian in Syria, Dead". Enab Baladi. 1 September 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  13. ^ a b A Staff Brigadier General in Jaysh Al-Tahrir Al-Filastini and other members were killed in violent confrontations in the Syrian Desert on the border of Rif Dimashq and Al-Suwaidaa
  14. ^ "Syrian War Daily – 25th of September 2018". Syrian War Daily blog. 25 September 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Palestinian Factions Spearheading the Syrian Desert's Battles". Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Last Daesh emir in southern Syria eliminated by Syrian Army". 17 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  17. ^ "Syria claims it has killed ISIS commander in new offensive". Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Breaking: Syrian Army liberates last water source under ISIS control". Al Masdar. 29 August 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  19. ^ "Syrian Army killed 288 Islamic State terrorists in 62 days - monitor". Al-Masdar. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Since the meeting of the Russians with al-Aql Sheikhs until ISIS members vanished, about 510 civilians, regime forces' members and armed people of Al-Suwaidaa are victims of the mandatory conscription". SOHR. 18 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  21. ^ "Syria war: More than 200 dead in suicide attacks". BBC. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Masdar News – 6 August 2018". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Syrian Army attempts to crack ISIL's lines in east Sweida". Al-Masdar. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  24. ^ "[Graphic 18+] Syrian forces in Sweida hang ISIS fighter after terrorist attack". Al-Masdar. 7 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  25. ^ "VIDEO: Syrian Army seizes ISIS outpost in east Swaida". Al-Masdar. 8 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  26. ^ "ISIS asks for ceasefire in east Sweida as Syrian troops advance (video)". Al Masdar. 16 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  27. ^ a b "Syrian Army cuts all supply lines to ISIL's last stronghold in southern Syria". Al Masdar. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Syrian Army achieves major breakthrough against ISIS in southern Syria". Al Masdar. 24 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  29. ^ "ISIS inflicts heavy casualties on Syrian troops as they launch major counter-offensive in southern Syria". Al Masdar. 25 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  30. ^ "Syrian Army kills over 15 ISIS terrorists after liberating new sites in southern Syria". Al Masdar. 29 August 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  31. ^ "ISIS execution of Druze woman enrages community". 3 October 2018.
  32. ^ Al-awsat, Asharq. "Syria: Sweida Tensions Rise After ISIS Executes Captive Young Woman". Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  33. ^ Frantzman, Seth J. (20 October 2018). "ISIS releases six Druze hostages". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  34. ^ "ISIS releases six of 27 Druze hostages in Syria". The National. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  35. ^ "Islamic State releases six Syrian hostages who were kidnapped in July". 20 October 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  36. ^ "ISIS 'releases six' of 27 Druze hostages in exchange for prisoner swap, ransom". Al Arabiya English. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  37. ^ "Syrian Army Liberates 19 Hostages Held by Islamic State Since July". Time. Archived from the original on 8 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  38. ^ "Syria army frees IS hostages - state media". 8 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018 – via
  39. ^ "Daesh suffers devastating defeat as Syrian Army liberates entire Al-Safa region". Al-Masdar News. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.