Last update: February 2023
[Main COI reference: Security 2022, 2.4, pp. 114-122; COI Update 2022, 2., pp. 3-8]
Latakia governorate is situated in the north-west of the country and borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Tartous to the south, Hama to the east and Idlib to the north-east. It also shares an international border with Türkiye to the north. Latakia is divided into four administrative districts: Latakia, Al-Haffa, Al-Qardaha and Jablah. As of February 2022, UNOCHA estimated the population of Latakia governorate to be of 1 274 433 inhabitants.
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. [Security 2021, 2.4, p. 220]
Actors: control and presence
Latakia governorate is mainly controlled by GoS. Anti-GoS armed groups control a narrow part of territory in the north-eastern corner of the governorate limited by the Turkish border and adjoining the anti-GoS controlled areas in Idlib and Hama governorates.
There is no information on SAA operations in Latakia governorate for the reporting period.
HTS has expanded its control over areas in the north-eastern governorate of Latakia. In October 2021, HTS attacked two rival groups, Jund Al-Sham and Jund Allah, in Latakia governorate, leading to Jund Al-Sham agreeing to withdraw from confrontation areas.
Russian forces have withdrawn to their own airbase in Hmeimin. In addition, they are said to have transferred other bases to Iranian forces, which continued to be deployed at various positions in the governorate.
Turkish forces were also reportedly operating in the governorate.
Nature of violence and examples of incidents
The conflict between GoS and anti-GoS armed groups continued during the reporting period. Reported incidents were concentrated in the north-eastern part of the governorate controlled by the anti-GoS armed groups along the Kabana frontline in the Jabal al-Akrad region, sup-ported by bombardment, exchanges of intense shelling and heavy machine gun fires as well as Russian airstrikes. There is also information about Israeli missile attacks on targets linked to Iran.
ACLED recorded 192 security incidents (average of 2.8 security incidents per week) in Latakia governorate in the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 July 2022. Of the reported incidents, 141 were coded as ‘explosions/remote violence’, 49 as ‘battles’ and 2 as incident of ‘violence against civilians’. In the period 1 August – 31 October 2022, 88 security incidents were recorded in Latakia representing an average of 7 security incidents per week.
Around 74% of all security incidents documented by ACLED in Latakia governorate during the reference period were recorded in Al-Hafa district.
Civilian fatalities: data
The SNHR recorded two civilian fatalities in Latakia in the nine months between April and December 2021. In January – October 2022, the SNHR recorded four civilian fatalities. This represented less than one civilian fatality per 100 000 inhabitants for the first ten months of 2022.
As of February 2022, the number of IDPs in Latakia governorate was stated to be 449 317.
UNOCHA recorded approximately 7 000 IDP movements from Latakia governorate in 2021.
According to UNOCHA, approximately 7 000 IDPs were newly displaced in Latakia governorate in 2021, of which around 5 000 were displaced within the governorate. Approximately 6 000 movements from other governorates (Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Tartous, Rural Damascus, Damascus and Dar’a) to Latakia were reported. In the first six months of 2022, UNOCHA registered 3 339 IDP movements from Latakia governorate, most of which being within the governorate. In addition, 2 655 IDP movements were recorded to Latakia from other governorates. UNOCHA estimates that, during the first half of 2022. Access to services and livelihoods was the main incentive for these and other IDP movements within Syria.
In 2021, approximately 16 IDP return movements were recorded to Latakia governorate, all of them within Latakia governorate. In January 2022, 1 600 IDPs returned to their homes in Latakia governorate, of whom all were originally displaced within the governorate. Between February and May 2022, no returns to Latakia governorate were reported.
Further impact on civilians
By 2021, 90% of all public health centres and the port of Latakia, Syria’s main commercial port, were reportedly undamaged by the conflict. However, in 2021, several attacks on health facilities in Latakia governorate were reported. As Latakia has been affected by cluster munitions attacks since 2012, the governorate is contaminated with unexploded ordnance, especially in the northern parts.
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.