ANF | 6000 Syrian nationals have left the Hol Camp
Releases from Hol Camp have not led to more sleeper cell attacks, though the camp itself is still a flashpoint

Key Points

– November 2020 saw the lowest number of sleeper-cell attacks since records began since ISIS’ territorial defeat in March 2019
– NES ‘amnesty’ seeing hundreds of low-level Syrian ISIS fighters and their families doesn’t lead to any increase in violence
– November sees just 16 confirmed attacks (plus 7 attacks in Hol Camp), an 80% decrease year-on-year, while the previous record low was double this figure
– Fatalities double since last month, reaching 15, while raids decrease 16% (19 to 16)
– Hol Camp remains a hotspot for attacks by ISIS-affiliated women, with 7 attacks resulting in 7 deaths, and several wounded

In Depth

Following June’s ‘Deterrence of Terrorism’ campaign, a week-long series of joint SDF and International Coalition raids focusing on Deir-ez-Zor resulting in over 110 arrests, this month saw a record low in the rate of sleeper-cell attacks in Deir-ez-Zor and all of North and East Syria. 14 attacks were confirmed in Deir-ez-Zor, a 55% monthly decrease (31, 14) and a 64% decrease over all (45, 16). Only two attacks took place outside of Deir-ez-Zor in November, one in Raqqa and one in Heseke. 8 of these were assassination attempts targeting individuals suspected of connection to the Autonomous Administration, resulting in 9 fatalities. In total this saw 15 confirmed fatalities, and many more wounded. Despite a reduction in the number of attacks this is nonetheless a 50% increase compared to October which only saw 10 deaths.

This November saw a record low of sleeper-cell attacks, though it remained deadly in Deir-ez-Zor and Hol Camp

This is not including the attacks and deaths which occurred in Hol Camp this month, which remains a hotspot for attacks after the Autonomous Administration’s decision to release Syrian nationals not accused of violent crimes from the camp, with ISIS affiliates in the camp reacting violently to this reform. Hol Camp saw 7 assassination attempts in November, all of them resulting in deaths, many of the victims being of Iraqi nationality. Nonetheless, releases from Hol Camp and NES’ prisons did not result in any increase in ISIS attacks in the regions to which people returned.

Raids decreased 16% (19, 16) as did arrests by 45% (56, 31). The majority of raids took place in Deir-ez-Zor with 9 raids, Heseke with 4 raids, Manbij with 2 and Raqqa with 1. No raids were documented in Hol Camp this month.

Rojava Information Center researcher Robin Fleming said:

“Despite fluctuation from month to month, it is clear that joint Coalition and ISIS raids are having a long-term effect, decreasing the rate of ISIS and other sleeper-cell attacks. With the exception of January and February, every month throughout 2020 has seen a decrease when compared to the same month in 2019. This November, NES saw a record-low figure of ISIS attacks since the Rojava Information Center began collecting data; only 16 total attacks compared to 83 confirmed attacks in November 2019, immediately following the Turkish invasion.

As we see attacks in NES falling, so we see the situation in Hol Camp intensifying. Possibly due to the inability to conduct large scale attacks such as we were seeing in 2019, ISIS-affiliated individuals have resorted to targeted assassinations and attacks within the camps. Nonetheless, it is positive to note that neither releases of hundreds of families from Hol Camp nor an amnesty for hundreds of low-level ISIS fighters have led to any increase in sleeper-cell attacks.”

Please contact us for the fully sourced data-set sortable by incident type and location, live map showing all ISIS and other sleeper-cell attacks since the start of the year, and further analysis. This data was produced in collaboration with OSINT researcher Caki, and can be explored on the live map here.