[Main COI reference: Security 2020, 2.3.]
Hama governorate is in central Syria and has internal borders with the governorates of Latakia and Tartous to the west, Homs to the south and with Aleppo, Idlib and Raqqa to the north. It comprises five districts: Hama, Misyaf, Muhardah, As-Suqaylbiyah, and As-Salamiyeh. The Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the population of Hama governorate in 2016 to be 1 976 000. The estimated population of Hama City was 922 000 in 2020.
As of March 2020, most of Hama governorate was under the control of the GoS and only a narrow strip extending along the northern Hama border with Idlib governorate, stretching from Qa’urah in the east to Qarfus in the west, was still controlled by opposition factions. Different units of the SAA are present in Hama, as well as a large concentration of pro-government militias. There is also Russian military presence in Hama, mostly providing air-support to the fighting GoS troops. Iranian-backed forces are also present in the areas of Misyaf, az-Zawiya, Ma’rin Mount, Shalyout village, Qomhana, and Salamiyeh. Recruitment offices for recruiting into militias affiliated with the IRGC were also reported.
HTS and affiliated armed groups (Jaysh Izza, Katibat Al-Tawhid wal Jihad, TIP and Ansar Al-Din) were reported to retain control and carry military activities in northern Hama. NLF was also reported to be present, however HTS seized key areas in norther Hama from NLF in the wake of renewed infighting between the two groups.
ISIL or affiliated fighters continue to affect the security environment in areas formerly controlled by the group, which include Hama Desert. Steady, low-level activity by ISIL continued.
There were several Israeli airstrikes during 2019 that targeted positions in Hama governorate, such as on Misyaf and Hama airfield.
In military confrontations between GoS and anti-GoS armed groups during 2019, GoS forces reportedly used banned cluster munitions and incendiary weapons in the attacks, along with large air-dropped explosive weapons with wide-area effects, including ‘barrel bombs’, in populated civilian areas. Attacks by anti-GoS armed groups, in particular HTS and Jaysh al-Izza, on government-held areas were also reported. The CoI noted that between February and July 2019, HTS and Jaysh al-Izza ‘launched a barrage of rockets towards government-held areas in the countryside surrounding Aleppo and Hama, in attacks that terrorized, killed and maimed scores of civilians’. There were also reports of infighting between pro-GoS forces as well as between anti-GoS armed groups. Several incidents of attacks on healthcare facilities and schools were reported in the governorate. There were also incidents of casualties related to remnants of war.
ACLED recorded 5 119 security incidents (average of 98 security incidents per week) in Hama governorate in 2019, the large majority of which coded as explosions/remote violence. In the first two months of 2020, the number of security incidents in the governorate was 172, amounting to an average of 20 incidents per week.
During 2019, security incidents occurred in all districts of the governorate, with the vast majority being recorded in the districts of As-Suqaylabiyah (3 142) and Muhradah (1 330), followed by Hama district (562).
In 2019, VDC recorded a total of 390 civilian fatalities and SNHR recorded a total of 301 civilian fatalities in the governorate. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate as from 2016, these represent respectively 20 or 15 civilian fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants.
In 2019, around 194 000 were displaced from Hama governorate, 2 000 of whom were displaced within the governorate. The relative stability of the city of Hama resulted in a significant trend of inward migration and settlement in Hama. In July 2019, the bombing and shelling of Syria’s southern Idlib and northern Hama governorates forced more than 450 000 people to flee north towards the Turkish border. During 2019, there were around 25 000 return movements in Hama, of which 18 000 were returns within the governorate and the rest returned mainly from Idlib governorate.
Ground-based and air strikes launched in Hama reportedly resulted in the destruction and damage of civilian infrastructure, such as local markets, homes, settlements for IDPs, as well as crops and agricultural equipment. Attacks also resulted in the closing of healthcare and educational facilities. With regards to the infrastructure damage incurred by military activities in Hama city, a report from March 2017 stated that 6 % of the city’s housing asset was damaged. The damage was concentrated in one particular neighbourhood, Sabil, which underwent complete demolition in 2012.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that in the districts of As-Suqaylabiyah and Muhradah the degree of indiscriminate violence reaches such a high level, that substantial grounds are shown for believing that a civilian, returned to these districts, would, solely on account of his or her presence on their territory, face a real risk of being subject to the serious threat referred to in Article 15(c) QD.
In the districts of Hama, Masyaf and As-Salamiyeh indiscriminate violence is taking place, however not at a high level and, 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 in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.