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Last update: November 2021

[Main COI reference: Security 2021, 2.4]

General information

Latakia governorate is situated in the northwest of the country and borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Tartous to the south, Hama to the east and Idlib to the northeast. It also shares an international border with Turkey to the north. Latakia is divided into four administrative districts: Latakia, Al-Haffa, Al-Qardaha and Jablah. In a March 2021 report, UNOCHA estimated the population of Latakia governorate to be of 1 215 928.

Latakia is the location of Syria’s main commercial port, handling large volumes of metals, chemicals, machinery and foodstuffs.

Background of the conflict

Most of Latakia governorate had been under government control since the start of the conflict. The city of Latakia has been a stronghold for the Alawites and the Assad family. Since 2013, the GoS managed to isolate rebel strongholds to the Kabani mountain area in the northeast of Latakia. New government attacks in 2019 were launched but failed to achieve decisive results. Attacks and counter-attacks followed later during the rest of 2019. According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), ‘the predominantly Alawite and Christian population, the reliable security apparatus of the GoS and the presence of paramilitary forces supporting the GoS troops there are reasons for the relative stability of the governorate’.

Actors: control and presence

The SAA and government affiliated armed groups were operating in the governorate.

The Russian air force maintained its own airbase and landing strip at Hmeimim.

Turkish forces as well as Turkmen militias, who received limited Turkish support and who were mostly part of the Second Coastal Division, were operating in Latakia governorate.

The Iranian paramilitary, the IRGC, and Iranian-backed militias, such as the Al-Mukhtar Al Thaqafi Brigade, were also reported to be present in the region.

Rebel forces had kept a foothold in northeast Latakia for the entire length of the civil war in Syria, creating a frontline in the northeast mountains.

Areas in Latakia near the border to Idlib were dominated by the jihadist group HTS.

Nature of violence and examples of incidents

As of March 2021, Latakia governorate was under GoS control except a strip along the Turkish border and the border to Idlib which was under control of anti-GoS armed groups. The conflict was concentrated in the area of Jabal Kabani in Al Haffa and fighting continued in 2020 and 2021, supported by Russian airstrikes, bombardment and intense rocket and artillery shelling. A report in October 2020 assessed that 99 % of the recorded security incidents between May and October were indirect artillery fire and 1 % were landmine/explosive remnants of war.

Incidents: data

ACLED recorded 208 security incidents (average of 3 security incidents per week) in Latakia governorate in the period from 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2021. Of the reported incidents, 174 were coded as ‘explosions/remote violence’, 33 as ‘battles’ and 1 as incident of ‘violence against civilians’.

Geographical scope

Security incidents were recorded in all Latakia governorate districts during the reporting period, with the highest number of overall incidents being recorded in Al-Haffa and Latakia.

Civilian fatalities: data

VDC recorded 2 civilian fatalities in 2020 and no civilian fatalities in the first three months of 2021. SNHR recorded 9 civilian fatalities in 2020 and no civilian fatalities in the first three months of 2021. For the full reporting period, this represented 2 civilian fatalities in total or less than 1 civilian fatality per 100 000 inhabitants according to VDC data; and 9 civilian fatalities in total or approximately 1 civilian fatality per 100 000 inhabitants according to SNHR.


In 2020, UNOCHA recorded around 7 000 IDP movements from Latakia governorate, the majority being within the governorate itself. In the first three months of 2021, approximately 1 570 IDP movements from, including within, Latakia governorate were reported.

In terms of return movements, around 3 000 IDP return movements to, including within, Latakia governorate were recorded in 2020. No return movements to Latakia governorate were recorded in the first three months of 2021.

Further impact on civilians

In the reference period, war-related damage was not a prominent issue for Latakia governorate. 90 % of all public health centres and the port of Latakia were reportedly undamaged by the conflict. Freedom of movement was reported not to be restricted within the capital Latakia City. There were no areas within the governorate with restricted access for civilians, with the exception of military facilities, the Russian air base and the port. There were also reports of checkpoints near Latakia airport, which was said to be partially open to international traffic. The government was reportedly not able to implement full security on the roads in Latakia governorate. In 2020, there was reportedly an increase in tension in the governorate because of the deterioration of the economic situation due to the lack of basic services, bread and fuel. In early 2021, arrests of civilians who had criticised corruption on social media were reported. Among those arrested were government employees, a television host, and a prominent cartoonist. Extensive wildfires that broke out in the basin of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including Latakia, attributed to climate change, caused severe damage to infrastructure and livelihoods across the governorate in October 2020.


Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the governorate of Latakia, however not at a high level. Accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.