69 months of International Coalition operations in Syria | Blocking Tehran-Beirut highway tops Coalition’s agenda .. security campaigns fail to contain ISIS resurgence
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
June 23, 2020
As warnings about the possibility of an ISIS revival and territorial gains are becoming more palpable, the International Coalition against Islamic has continued its military operations in Syria for the 69th consecutive month. The Coalition has been sending military reinforcement to SDF-held areas, and conducted with SDF numerous security campaigns, raids and arrests. At the same time, the International Coalition is still attempting to block Tehran-Beirut international highway to put an end to Iran’s influence in the eastern region of Syria which has been under the control of the Iranians since the former IRGC-Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, captured the area between Al-Bokamal and Al-Mayadin cities, and the Syria-Iraq border.
On June 7, the Syrian Observatory obtained information about decisions by Israel and the Coalition to block the international highway and end the Iranians’ influence in that area. While on June 6, an unidentified drone, but believed to be an Israeli drone, attacked an Iranian base near Al-Bokamal, killing 12 Iranian-backed Iraqi and Afghani militiamen.
From January 23, 2020 to June 23, 2020, the International Coalition has brought in dozens of trucks carrying logistical and material support to strengthen its presence in northeastern Syria, after it had voluntarily withdrawn from half of the territory it controlled on October 9, 2019. Now Coalition forces control only a smaller mass of territory, mainly areas containing oil and gas installations in Deir ez-Zor and Al-Hasakeh.
On June 15, nearly 200 trucks belonging to the International Coalition entered Syria via Simalka border crossing with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, five of which were carrying military armoured vehicles, while others carrying logistical materials. The trucks headed to military bases in north-eastern Syria. While on June 6, another column of the International Coalition crossed into Syrian territory and headed to Tal Baydar base in the northern countryside of Al-Hasakeh.
Countering Islamic State remnants: Ongoing cooperation
Although ISIS was announced defeated in March 2019, yet the group only lost ground in northeastern Syria. The group’s presence, its sympathizers and cells are far from being defeated. The group’s sleeper cells are still operating in various areas held by SDF, carrying out assassinations and bombings as part of the security chaos in those areas.
On June 14, a drone targeted a car carrying two commanders of “Hurras al-Din” organization, killing both instantly. One of the targeted commanders was a Jordanian military official of “Hurras al-Din” organization, while the other was a Yemeni official in the ISIS-affiliated Jaysh Al-Badia. According to reliable SOHR sources, the drone is thought to belong the International Coalition.
On June 4, however, reliable SOHR sources confirmed that Syria Democratic Forces and the International Coalition were preparing to launch large-scale security campaign in Deir Ezzor countryside. SDF amassed troops in Al-Busayrah, Sur in the east of Deir Ezzor and Al-Omar oil field. According to SOHR sources, the operation targeted the northern desert of Deir Ezzor. Seven ISIS cells in Al-BoHamda village of Al-Dahshisha town were arrested during that campaign.
On May 28, the International Coalition carried out an airdrop in Jadeed Ekaydat village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, arresting four ISIS members, believed to be Iraqis.
SOHR activists reported seeing three vehicles on June 12 used by representatives of the United States and the International Coalition in Syria, entering the city of Al-Derbasiya from Al-Hasaka. The vehicles headed later to an area near the border strip and inspected the military posts near the border in areas controlled by the regime forces and SDF.
Syria Democratic Forces with the International Coalition carried out several campaigns of raids and arrests over the past few months, since SDF, backed by Coalition aircraft, raided Al-Shahabat school in al-Hawayij village in western countryside of Deir Ezzor. Several displaced people from Al-Mayadeen city living in the school were arrested. The reasons behind arresting these people were unknown.
SOHR sources also reported that U.S. forces paid many secret visits to Al-Jazarah military base on the outskirts of Al-Raqqah city in the past few days. Al-Jazarah military base is one of the largest ex-bases of the International Coalition where Syria Democratic Forces are now present. According to SOHR sources, U.S. forces intend to station their troops in the military base once again as a part of efforts to entrench their presence in eastern Euphrates.
Abductees forgotten by coalition and SDF
14 months have passed since the International Coalition’s official declaration of the elimination of Islamic State as a dominating force over east of the Euphrates River. Despite all the developments that took place over the past month, the Coalition and SDF’s silence continues regarding ISIS abductees. No details on the fate of thousands of abductees are provided; and no information about the results of the interrogations of ISIS member is available, as thousands are held by SDF and the Coalition, east of the Euphrates.
Concerns about the abductees’ lives and fate are growing, including the fate of father Paulo Dall’Oglio, Bishop John Ibrahim, Paul Yaziji, Abdullah al-Khalil, a British journalist, Sky News journalist, and other journalists, and hundreds of abductees from Ayn al-Arab (Kobani) and Afrin and other people from Deir Ezzor.
June 2020 … another month passes and no investigation into alleged Coalition massacres
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renew its appeals to all international actors, International Coalition and SDF to announce the results of interrogations with ISIS detainees and what happened to the thousands of abductees. The Syrian Observatory had previously called upon the international community to investigate reports regarding the killing of 200 ISIS operatives and their families, women and children, in a massacre committed by the Coalition’s jets by bombing al-Baghouz camp on March 21, 2019.
According to SOHR sources, 200 bodies were buried at dawn on that particular day, without information as to whether the International Coalition was aware of the presence of children and women from ISIS families inside the camp or not.
However, all these appeals remain unanswered. Therefore, SOHR renews its appeals to all relevant parties to announce the whole facts and hold accountable those responsible for the massacres and violations over the past five years during which the Coalition were actively involved in the Syrian crisis.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while providing adequate monitoring of Coalition operations in Syria, stresses once more that it would have been possible to avoid the heavy losses of Syrian civilian lives if the International Coalition had not ignored SOHR’s calls to spare and protect civilians from its military operations, where the presence of Islamic State militants or other jihadist groups in a civilian area does not in any way justify the blank and discriminate bombardment of area and the loss of civilian lives.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also stresses that the negative impact of Turkish military intervention on civilians could have been avoided, if the US President had applied enough pressure on his Turkish counterpart to stop a new humanitarian crisis, displacing thousands and killing and injuring hundreds.
On the other hand, we at SOHR would like to remind the world that the oil and gas resources, controlled by the International Coalition, belong only to the Syrian people. Therefore, all the concerned parties are obliged under international laws and norms to preserve these resources and ensure that they will not be stolen or seized in any way; these resources do not belong to the “regime”, “Iran” or any other party; they belong only to the people of Syria, who have been suffering the brutalities of an ongoing war for over nine years. SOHR also warns of repercussions of exploiting these sources, seizing them or depriving the Syrians of their rights in resources.