After the defeat of ISIS, the war in Syria entered a low intensity phase. However, the conflict is in no way near its end and the country remains one of the main points of instability around the world.
In August 2018, SouthFront released an extensive of military and diplomatic developments in the Syrian conflict in the period from the start of the Russian operation in September 2015 to August 2018. By that moment, Damascus forces backed up by Russia and Iran had liberated from terrorists large parts of central, eastern, southern and northern Syria, including Aleppo city, Palmyra and the countryside of Damascus. The US-led coalition and the Kurdish-dominated group branded as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) did have control of the cities of Manibj and Raqqah, and large parts of northwestern Syria. Additionally, the US military had a military garrison on the Damascus-Baghdad highway, in the Syrian border area of al-Tanf. The Turkish Armed Forces and Turkish-backed armed formations were in control of the Afrin region and the al-Bab-Azaz-Jarabulus triangle. The situation in the militant-held parts of Idlib, Aleppo, Hama and Lattakia provinces were partially frozen through the Astana talks format, which involves Turkey, Iran, Russia, Syria and representatives of the so-called moderate opposition.
Over the past 12 months, from August 2018 to July 2019 the desert areas of southeastern Syria, the eastern bank of the Euphrates, and the contact line between the Syrian Army and militants in southern Idlib and northern Hama became the main hot points of the conflict.
On September 10, the SDF assisted by US-led coalition special forces, artillery and aircraft started an advance on the ISIS-held pocket in eastern Deir Ezzor. The pocket included the towns of Baghuz, Hajin, al-Kashsmah and multiple small settlements. The operation involved around 17,000 SDF fighters and included an intense air and artillery bombing campaign. The estimated number of ISIS members hiding in the pocket was 2,000-4,000. The offensive lasted until middle December when the last ISIS-held town, Hajin, fell into the hands of the SDF. Around 1,000 ISIS members and 500 SDF fighters were killed during the operation. Thousands of civilians, mainly members of ISIS fighters’ families, left the pocket and were moved to SDF-held filtration camps. The most widely known of them is the al-Hawl camp in the province of al-Hasakah.