79 months since the declaration of Caliphate State | ISIS members kill over 100 regime soldiers and loyalists, while cells carry out nearly 65 operations in SDF-held areas
23 months since the collapse of "al-Baghdadi's Caliphate": Significant resurgence of ISIS members and cells, and continued neglect of the group's abductees
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. However, ISIS cells are still able to exploit opportunities to create security vacuum and carry out assassinations, which clearly indicate that the “Islamic State” is still alive and kicking.
Areas under the control of regime forces and allies: daily intensive operations leave great human losses
The Syrian desert is witnessing ongoing military operations in large areas between regime forces and allied militias, supported by Russian aircraft, on the one hand, and members of the Islamic State on the other.
Last month experienced a significant increase in military operations in the areas of Aleppo-Hama-Al-Raqqah triangle, Homs and Deir Ezzor deserts, where the group launched daily violent attacks on the area, inflicting great human losses on regime forces and allied militias, while Russian and regime aircraft were unable to hinder the group despite the intensive airstrikes.
According to SOHR statistics, ISIS managed to kill 102 regime soldiers and loyalists in the Syrian desert in the past month, all of whom were killed in ambushes, attacks, clashes, landmines and IEDs explosions. Also, ISIS lost 95 members in the same period in Russian airstrikes and clashes with regime forces and their proxy militias.
Since 24th of March 2019, SOHR has documented the killing of at least 1,353 regime soldiers and loyalists of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, including at least two Russians, and 145 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 798 ISIS members were also killed in attacks and bombardment in the same period.
Coalition and SDF-held areas: ISIS escalates its operations despite security campaigns
The situation in Coalition and SDF-held areas is not dissimilar from that of regime-held areas, as the Islamic State continues to carry out armed attacks and assassinations through gunfire, attacks with sharp tools or weapons and planting IEDs and landmines in SDF-held areas in the north and north-east of Syria.
Despite the escalating security campaigns by SDF and the International Coalition, including periodical arrests targeting individuals accused of “belonging to ISIS cells”, these campaigns have failed so far to put an end to ISIS’ escalating operations or even hinder them.
Since early February 2021, the Syrian Observatory could document over 63 operations, including armed attacks and explosions, carried out by ISIS cells in SDF-held areas in Deir Ezzor, Al-Hasakah, Aleppo and Al-Raqqah provinces. According to SOHR statistics, these attacks left 46 people dead: ten civilians, including two women and a child, and 36 members of Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) and Self-Defense Forces, all killed by IED and landmine explosions, direct gunfire, and stabbing.
Since July 2018 to date, the number of fighters, civilians, oil workers and civil servants assassinated in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Al-Hasakah provinces and SDF-controlled Manbij area in north-eastern Aleppo province increased to 689 persons.
The Syrian Observatory has documented the assassination of 247 civilians by armed cells, including 18 children and 13 women in the eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Hasakah countryside, Raqqa city and countryside and Manbij, in addition to the assassination of 443 fighters of SDF, including local leaders in the same areas, while four members of the International Coalition were killed, dozens of wounded were also reported by SOHR as a result of these assassinations.
Islamic State’s abductees: ignored and unaccounted
Although nearly 23 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.
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.