75 months since the declaration of Caliphate State | ISIS cells kill some 150 regime soldiers and loyalists, and timid security campaigns fail to undermine ISIS’ escalating activities in SDF-held areas
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Although the Counter-ISIS International Coalition command and the leaders of Syria Democratic Forces announced the elimination of the so-called Caliphate of the “Islamic State” in March 2019, recent developments on the ground indicate that ISIS has not been fully eliminated. ISIS continues launching military operations and counter attacks which are met with security campaigns by Coalition forces and their Syria Democratic Forces partner throughout SDF-controlled areas, in addition to military operations by Russian and regime forces against ISIS cells in areas under their control.
Despite the great losses which ISIS has sustained, including the loss of almost all of its territory with the exception of few positions in the Syrian desert, the killing of the organization’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad in a U.S. airstrike, and the arrest of a large number of ISIS commanders, ISIS cells still exploit opportunities to create security vacuum and carry out assassinations, which clearly indicate that the “Islamic State” is still alive and kicking.
Regime-controlled areas: Military operations in progress and heavy human losses
Military operations are still underway throughout the Syrian desert between regime forces and loyal militias backed by Russian aircraft, on one hand, and ISIS members who are active in large swathes of land, on the other. Battles, bombardment and attacks escalated greatly in the last month, especially on al-Rahjan and Athraya frontlines in the Syrian desert. The group launched violent attacks on the area, during which it managed to inflict heavy casualties on the regime forces and loyal militias, while Russian and regime jets were unable to paralyse ISIS members despite the huge number of airstrikes.
Syrian Observatory activists have reported frequent meetings by the tribes and dignitaries in the Syrian desert in Hama, Aleppo and Idlib countryside in order to establish a new military formation for countering ISIS attacks in the area from Al-Saan and Itharya areas in Hama countryside to the area of Tal Al-Daman in the south of Aleppo and the east of Idlib.
The new formation comprises fighters from the region’s tribes, which are: Al-Ma’atah, Al-Kawsimah, Al-Jumaylah, Al-Ghanatesah, Al-Hudaydeen, Al-Bojameel, Al-Hajjaj and other tribes.
According to local sources, the elder of Al-Ma’atah tribe in the eastern countryside of Hama, under direct support by regime forces and Iranian militias, will be assigned as the newly-established formation’s leader. It is worth noting that this man is a retired regime major general.
According to Observatory statistics, Islamic State has killed 147 regime soldiers and allied militias in the last month through ambushes, shelling and clashes in the Syrian desert.
Since the 24th of March 2019, SOHR has documented the killing of at least 928 regime soldiers and loyalists of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, including at least two Russians, and 140 Iranian-backed militiamen of non-Syrian nationalities. All were killed in attacks, bombings and ambushes by the “Islamic State”, west of Euphrates in the deserts of Deir Ezzor, Homs, and Al-Suwaidaa.
Also, four civilians working in gas fields, 11 shepherds and four other people were killed and documented by SOHR in the same period, from late March 2019 until today. They were killed in attacks by ISIS cells. While 505 ISIS members were also killed in attacks and bombardment in the same period.
International Coalition and SDF-held areas: Timid security campaigns fail to undermine ISIS’ escalating activities
As ISIS cells escalate their operations across areas under the control of Syria Democratic Forces, SDF continued their security campaigns, backed by the International Coalition Forces. However, these operations have failed so far to eliminate ISIS cells or restore security and stability in SDF-held areas.
Reliable sources had informed SOHR that Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) raided the house of an ISIS leader named “Abu Walid al-Iraqi.”
It is worth nothing that the leader had been arrested earlier by SDF on July 20, 2020.
The security campaign resulted in the arrest of a person accused of “belonging to the Islamic State”. Moreover, a person, who was a former member of the Turkish-backed factions and used to live in the “Euphrates Shield” areas in Aleppo countryside before he recently returned to Al-Sour town, was killed, while his wife was injured during the security operation.
Meanwhile, helicopters of the International Coalition targeted a warehouse of IEDs in the valley on the outskirts of Al-Sour town.
“Al-Hawl mini-state”: Ongoing escape attempts
Attempts to escape from al-Hawl camp, known as “Al-Hawl mini-state”, continue. On October 22, reliable sources told SOHR that the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) had foiled a new attempt by four women of ISIS families with their children to escape from Al-Hawl camp in the far south-eastern countryside of Al-Hasakah. To escape from the camp, the women, who are of non-Syrian nationalities (three Russians and one Austrian), used trenches dug around the camp to confine the escape attempts. However, they were detected by members of Asayish Forces deployed around “Al-Hawl mini-state”.
On October 3, reliable sources told the Syrian Observatory that the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) foiled an attempt by Iraqi women to escape from Al-Hawl camp in the far south-eastern Al-Hasakah.
According to SOHR sources, three Iraqi women and the children attempted to escape in an empty oil/water tanker with the help of the truck’s driver, who works for UNICEF, before the women were detected by Asayish Forces.
It is worth noting that Al Hawl camp is home to at least 68,607 people: 8,450 Iraqi families consisting of 30,765 Iraqi citizens; 7,809 Syrian families consisting of 28,069 Syrian nationals; and 9,773 people of European, Asian, African and other nationalities, among 2,824 families.
Islamic State’s abductees: ignored and unaccounted for
Although nearly 19 months have passed since the International Coalition’s announcement of the defeat of ISIS which was a dominant force east of the Euphrates River, and with the recent developments over the past period, however, silence still surrounds the issue of ISIS’s abductees. All sides remain quiet and provide no clarification on the fate of thousands of abductees, where fear continues to grow for the lives and fate of the abductees, including Father Paolo Daololio, Bishops John Ibrahim and Paul Yazji, Abdullah Al Khalil, a British journalist, sky news journalist and other journalists, in addition to hundreds of abductees from Ain Al Arab (Kobane) area and Afrin, as well as the people of Deir ez-Zor.
Reliable sources have informed SOHR that the charity of “Al-Sh’aytat Martyrs” managed, with the help of residents, to retrieve the remains of 26 poples/bodies belonging to young males and men of al-Sh’aytat executed with hundreds others of the same tribe by ISIS six years ago.
According to SOHR sources, a mass graveyard was discovered in the desert of Jammah village in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor with the remains of 26 persons whose identities were recognized.
It is worth noting that ISIS committed a massacre against the people of al-Sh’aytat tribe, when it was controlling Deir Ezzor in 2014 andwhere over 930 young males and men were executed.
With the continuing crimes and violations against Syrian civilians, including death threats against SOHR workers by the Islamic State and other killers and criminals in Syria, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its vows to continue its work by monitoring, documenting and publishing all violations and crimes that committed against the Syrian people.
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, renew our call to the UN Security Council to refer those ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ committed in Syria to the International Criminal Court so that all the criminals and killers of the Syrian people are brought to justice.
The Syrian Observatory also points out that it had already warned, well before “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” declared itself as “Caliphate State” in Syria and Iraq, that this organization did intend to work for the Syrian people and serve their interest, but rather ISIS continued to kill innocent Syrians, who had been suffering the brutality of war and violence and became displaced.
Furthermore, the “Islamic State” recruited children in the so-called “cubs of the caliphate”, and controlled the wealth and resources of Syrian people and harnessed them to build a “caliphate”, and traded openly back and forth with one of Syria’s neighbouring country.
The Syrian Observatory also renews its appeal to the international community for a solution to “Al Hawl mini-state” crisis, which is considered a clear and present danger to everyone.