Last update: February 2023
[Main COI reference: Security 2022, 2.5, pp. 123-128; COI Update 2022, 2., pp. 3-8]
Tartous and Latakia governorates form the coastal region of Syria. Tartous governorate borders the Mediterranean Sea in the west, Latakia governorate in the north, the governorates of Hama and Homs to the east, and Lebanon to the south. Tartous consists of five administrative districts: Tartous City, Baniyas, Dreikish, Safita and Sheikh Badr. As of February 2022, UNOCHA estimated the population of Tartous governorate to be 943 100 inhabitants.
Background of the conflict
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the governorate of Tartous has largely been controlled by GoS and experienced no major attacks. However, in 2016, the city of Tartous was targeted by ISIL and in 2017, the seaside promenade of the city was hit by several explosions carried out by suicide bombers [Security 2020, 2.5.2., p. 112; 2.5.3, p. 114]. The governorate is referred to as an ‘island of stability’ and considered a ‘regime stronghold’.
Actors: control and presence
During the reference period, the whole of Tartous governorate was under GoS control. Tartous City was reportedly controlled by the president’s brother Maher al-Assad, who is the commander of the SAA’s 4th Armoured Division.
In 2017, Syria and Russia signed a 49-year lease agreement allowing for the further development and modernisation of a Russian permanent naval base in the port of Tartous. A ‘sizable’ naval contingent is reportedly based at the port supporting Russian air and ground operations in Syria. Sources also noted the presence of Russian air force in the governorate.
Anti-government armed groups were reportedly not present in the governorate of Tartous.
Nature of violence and examples of incidents
Two Israeli airstrikes were documented during the reporting period. The first one aimed to hit an Iran controlled arms depot in November 2021 and the second one, in July 2021, hit a former poultry farm reportedly used by Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Two civilians were wounded in the last attack.
Tartous recorded the lowest number of security incidents out of all governorates. ACLED recorded 6 security incidents (average of 0.1 security incidents per week) in Tartous governorate in the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 July. Of the reported incidents, 3 were coded as ‘explosions/remote violence’, 2 as incidents of ‘violence against civilians’ and 1 as ‘battles’. In the period 1 August – 31 October 2022, three security incidents were recorded in Tartous representing an average of 0.2 security incident per week.
Security incidents were recorded in Banyas, Safita and Tartous City districts.
Civilian fatalities: data
The SNHR did not record any civilian fatalities in Tartous between April 2021 and October 2022.
As of August 2021, the number of IDPs in Tartous governorate was stated to be 182 297.
UNOCHA recorded approximately 1 000 IDP movements from Tartous governorate, as well as 3 000 IDP movements within the governorate. Approximately 4 000 movements from other governorates to Tartous were reported. In the first four months of 2022, UNOCHA registered 334 IDP movements from Tartous governorate.
In 2021, approximately 1 000 IDP return movements were recorded from the governorate, while no IDP return movements within the governorate nor to the governorate were recorded. In the first four months of 2022, no IDP return movements to the governorate from other governorates or within the governorate were registered.
Further impact on civilians
Tartous is the only governorate where cluster munitions were not extensively used since 2012.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that in the governorate of Tartous, there is, in general, no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.