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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) aims to regain territory taken by various armed groups and to strengthen President Assad’s position. Several offensives and advances were made in 2017 and 2018. SAA controls more than half of the country, including Damascus, Rural Damascus, and parts of Aleppo, Homs, and Hama governorates among others. Government strongholds include Tartous and most of Lattakia, in addition to government-controlled areas in Al Hasakeh, Sweida, Dara, Deir-ez-Zor, and Idleb governorates. ?The Lebanese Hezbollah is fighting alongside the SAA. ?
Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a coalition of dozens of armed groups, with the common objective to oust Assad. This is not a homogeneous group. Some factions seek a secular state, while others are rooted in Sunni Islam. Their differences have caused infighting.?Turkey supports the FSA, which controls some areas of Turkish influence in the north (Aleppo governorate) and pockets of territories across the country.? Turkey says its primary reason for backing the FSA as an attempt to combat the YPG.?
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is a Salafist Jihadi coalition including Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al Nusra. HTS is estimated to control 60% of Idleb. It formally split from al Qaeda in 2016, though reports of the group maintaining an allegiance to al Qaeda were raised in 2017. HTS has had operations in Idleb, Aleppo, Quneitra and Dara. It counts around 31,000 fighters.? In August 2018, the group refused to integrate into the National Liberation Front (an umbrella organisation established by Turkey) ahead of any offensive on Idleb, claiming to be the sole legitimate defender of Sunni Syrians.?
Islamic State (IS) has lost control of the geographical areas it established as a Islamic 'caliphate' in Syria. IS has lost most of the territory in al Deir-ez-Zor and Homs governorates in 2017, but remains in control of pockets of territory in Deir-ez-Zor and al-Hasakeh.? IS is not part of any international negotiation. Despite the group's loss of territory, 20,000–30,000 IS fighters are believed to remain across Syria and Iraq.?
People’s Protection Units (YPG) is a Kurdish armed group and the main force in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). YPG seeks to create an autonomous region in northern Syria that would include parts of Aleppo, ar Raqqa and al-Hasakeh governorates, and possibly reach the Mediterranean Sea in the west.?It is excluded from the de-escalation agreement. Kurdish groups have been in de facto control of Kurdish zones in large areas of the northern parts of northern governorates since mid-2012. In mid-March 2016, YPG declared a federal region in northern Syria, reuniting three Kurdish zones in the area. In 2018, it was challenged by Turkish intervention and ousted from Afrin (Aleppo).?
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is a multiethnic coalition of armed groups, led by the YPG.? The SDF has about 50,000 fighters.? With the support of the US-led coalition, it has taken control of large parts of territory in northern and eastern Syria from IS. SDF controls large parts of Al Hasakeh, ar Raqqa, Aleppo, and Deir-ez-Zor governorates and Raqqa city.?
The National Liberation Front (NLF) is in Idleb governorate and was established with the support of Turkey. The NLF consists of 11 FSA groups and several other loose oppositions factions. It reportedly has 70,000 fighters. HTS refused to join the NLF.?
Russia and Iran are the main countries backing the Syrian government. Russia, which launched an air campaign on 30 September 2015, has voiced concern about the presence of what it deems terrorist organisations in the last remaining opposition stronghold of Idleb governorate.? Iran has deployed ground troops since 2016. More than 1,000 Iranian fighters, including some with senior positions in Iran's revolutionary guard, have been killed in Syria since 2012.?Iran's involvement in the conflict causes considerable tension with Israel, with provocations between the two countries increasing in 2018 and leading to airstrikes and casualties.?
Turkey supports the FSA against the SDF and IS, mainly in Idleb and Aleppo governorates in northern Syria. Turkey has expanded its presence in Aleppo and Idleb governorates since 2016, when the Turkish army captured Jarabulus and nearby villages from the IS. In 2017, the Turkish army entered Idleb following the de-escalation agreement and has since been expanding its deployment into the governorate. Turkish military advanced in northern Aleppo in 2018 and gained control over Afrin district, ousting the SDF and Kurdish forces. ? In anticipation of an offensive in Idleb, Turkey has reinforced its observation posts there and tried to bring together rebel factions under the banner of the NLF. While many have merged, HTS remains a notable exception and has vowed to fight any SAA attempt to retake Idleb.?
The US leads an international coalition to combat IS that was set up in 2014. Despite saying earlier that it would withdraw from Syria, the US announced in September that American troops would remain in the country indefinitely.?
Israel: Syria has been a stage for the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah since Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict. Israel has conducted multiple airstrikes against Syrian government and Hezbollah positions across the country, particularly in the Golan Heights, Quneitra governorate and in the south of Damascus.? Israel has repeatedly struck suspected Iranian or Iran-affiliated bases in Syria and refused to allow Iranian-linked groups anywhere near its border. Syrian jets entering Israeli airspace have been shot down and Israel has retaliated against stray projectiles and rockets that have entered Israel (including the de-militarised zone) following hostilities on the Syrian side of the border. The SAA reportedly shot down Israeli drones.?Syrian state media reported on 15 September that Israeli missile strikes had targeted Damascus airport. On 17 September, according to media reports, more strikes targeted a ammunition depot in Lattakia as Israel has vowed not to let advance weapons systems fall into Iranian hands. Russian officials blamed Israel after Syria shot down a Russian military plane off the coast of Syria, straining diplomatic ties.?