Raqqa campaign (2012–2013)

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Raqqa campaign (2012–2013)
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Raqqa Offensive (2012-13).svg Battle of Raqqa.svg
Top: Map showing rebel advances in the Raqqa Governorate
Bottom: Map showing rebel advances in Raqqa city itself
  Syrian Army control
  Syrian Opposition control
  Kurdish control
Date19 September 2012 – 6 March 2013
(5 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)

Rebel victory


Al-Nusra Front
Syrian Islamic Front
Islamic State of Iraq
Syrian Islamic Liberation Front
Islamic Unity and Liberation Front (JWTI)[1][2]
Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army
Supported by:

 Turkey (border clashes)

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Syrian opposition Mohammad al-Daher[6]
(Farouq Brigades commander)
Dr. Samer[7]
(JWTI leader)
Abu Wael[8]
(Jihad in the Path of God Brigade commander)
Syria Brig. Gen. Khaled al-Halabi[5]
(Raqqa state security head)
Syria Maj. Gen. Hassan Jalili (POW)[5][2]
(Raqqa provincial governor)
Syria Suleiman Suleiman (POW)[5][2]
(Raqqa provincial Baath party secretary general)
Syria Abu Jassim Executed[9]
(military intelligence commander)
Casualties and losses
At least 47 killed At least 62 killed
300 prisoners

The Raqqa campaign (2012–2013) was a series of battles and offensives launched by various Syrian rebel groups, led by the al-Nusra Front, against Syrian government forces in the Raqqa Governorate as part of the Syrian Civil War. The campaign was launched at the second half of 2012 and ended in the capture of the city of Raqqa as well as dozens of smaller towns and facilities.

The campaign[edit]


On 19 September 2012, Free Syrian Army rebels led by the Farouq Brigades captured the border town of Tell Abyad and its border crossing with the town of Akçakale in Turkey.[10] The next day, the Syrian Air Force bombed a petrol station in Tell Abyad, killing 30 civilians and wounding 70. A rebel fighter was also mortally wounded.[11] In October, Syrian government forces launched a counteroffensive in Tell Abyad which resulted in a border clash between Syria and Turkey.[12]

On 12 October 2012, the al-Nusra Front and Harakat Fajr ash-Sham al-Islamiya attacked the Suluq barracks in Raqqa and claimed to have killed 32 Syrian soldiers.[13]

In November 2012, both the rebels and government forces set up checkpoints on the road between al-Thawrah (Tabqa) and Aleppo. By the end of December, the majority of the Raqqa province were reportedly under rebel control, and rebel fighters entered al-Thawra.[4]


Battle of al-Thawrah[edit]

On 10 January 2013, heavy clashes erupted in the town of al-Thawra and the Syrian Air Force in Tabqa airbase shelled the town with artillery. By 11 February, rebels led by the al-Nusra Front fully captured both the town and the Tabqa Dam next to it.[14]

Battle of Raqqa city[edit]

On 6 March 2013, rebel forces led by the al-Nusra Front fully captured the city of Raqqa from Syrian government, forces after a 3-day battle. The Syrian Army retreated to the military base of the 17th Division, to the northeast of the city.[5]


A convoy of vehicles of Liwa Owais al-Qorani leaving Tabqa and heading to Ayn Issa in June 2013.

The al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham implemented Sharia in the towns they captured. By April 2013, hundreds of Assyrians were displaced from al-Thawra.[4] Christians, including those who supported the opposition, were kidnapped in Raqqa, al-Thawra, and Tel Abyad by al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL also carried out public executions of dozens of people in the towns by firing squad. Political activism was also suppressed, several churches and mosques were burned, and hundreds of Armenians fled Raqqa.[5]

Order of battle[edit]

Rebel forces[edit]

Fighters of the al-Tawhid Brigade deface an image of President Bashar al-Assad on the road between Hama and Raqqa on 27 March 2013.
Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army-affiliated groups
Independent Islamist groups (some of which are also part of FSA)
  • Islamic Unity and Liberation Front (alliance of several Islamist militias)[1][2]
  • Liwa Owais al-Qorani[17]
  • Nasr Saladin Brigade[5]
  • Liwa Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman[9]
  • Muntasir Billah Brigade[9]
  • Katibat Hudheifa bin al-Yaman[17]
  • Katibat Mohammed bin Abdullah[17]
  • Katibat Musaib bin Umair[16]
  • Katibat Abu Dujana[16]
  • Katibat Saraya al-Furat[16]
  • Katibat Shuhada al-Jamaa Jund al-Rahman[16]
  • Katibat Ahrar al-Badiyah[16]
Syrian Islamic Liberation Front
Syrian Islamic Front[4]
Al-Qaeda affiliates and other Salafist jihadists

Government forces[edit]

Syrian Armed Forces

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Winter (2014), p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lister (2015), p. 112.
  3. ^ a b Bill Roggio (5 December 2013). "4 battalions from Qatar-backed Islamist brigade defect to wage 'armed jihadist struggle'". Long War Journal. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Nicholas Al-Jeloo (2 August 2013). "Stranded: the Forgotten Assyrians of Al-Thawrah, Syria". Assyrian International News Agency.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Firas al-Hakkar (8 November 2013). "The Mysterious Fall of Raqqa, Syria's Kandahar". al-Akhbar.
  6. ^ a b c Rania Abouzeid (5 October 2012). "Syria's Up-and-Coming Rebels: Who Are the Farouq Brigades?". TIME.
  7. ^ a b Winter (2014), p. 14.
  8. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (29 July 2014). "The Factions of Raqqa Province".
  9. ^ a b c d e Matthew Barber (4 April 2013). "The Raqqa Story: Rebel Structure, Planning, and Possible War Crimes".
  10. ^ "WRAPUP 3-Syrian rebels extend grip on Turkish border". Reuters. 19 September 2012.
  11. ^ "Thursday 20 September 2012". SKS.com.
  12. ^ "Turkey hits targets inside Syria after border deaths". BBC. 4 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Militant group says was behind Aleppo air defence base assault". Reuters. 20 October 2012.
  14. ^ "Rebels take control of military airport in North Syria, NGO says". AFP. 12 February 2013.
  15. ^ "Thousands mourn the body of the martyr Adnan Sheikh Mohammed in Kobani". Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party. 13 June 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Winter (2014), p. 5.
  17. ^ a b c d Winter (2014), p. 12.
  18. ^ "Jihadists push Syria rebels out of Raqqa". Now News. 14 August 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013.
  19. ^ Lister (2015), pp. 112, 167.
  20. ^ "A leader in the Free Army Conquest Brigade: There are contacts and meetings between us and PYD but?". Afrin News Agency. 15 October 2012.
  21. ^ Winter (2014), pp. 5, 6.
  22. ^ Winter (2014), p. 15.