82 months since the declaration of Caliphate State | ISIS continues its attacks and kills over 50 people in regime-controlled areas and SDF-controlled areas
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.
Regime-controlled areas: ISIS escalates its attacks despite aerial and ground operations
In the 82nd month after the declaration of the “al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate” ISIS operations has noticeably escalated in areas under the control of the Syrian regime and its allies, after being subsided for the past two due to the intensive Russian airstrikes. Despite the continuity of these intensive airstrikes by Russian fighter jets this month, ISIS managed to escalate its attacks on regime forces and their proxy militias in the Syrian desert, especially in al-Rasafah desert in al-Raqqah, the surrounding areas of Ithriyah in the eastern countryside of Hama, the desert of al-Sukhnah and Palmyra in Homs countryside, and the administrative border between al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor.
According to SOHR statistics, ISIS managed to kill 32 regime soldiers and loyalists in the Syrian desert in the past month, all of them were killed in attacks, clashes, ambushes and detonation of IEDs and landmines. While ISIS lost 64 members in Russian airstrikes and clashes with regime forces and loyal militias.
Since 24th of March 2019, SOHR has documented the killing of at least 1,433 regime soldiers and loyalists of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, including at least two Russians, and 150 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, al-Raqqah, Homs, al-Suwaidaa, Hama and Aleppo.
Also, four civilians working in gas fields, tens of shepherds and other civilians 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 963 ISIS members were also killed in attacks and bombardment in the same period.
SDF-held areas: ISIS re-escalate its operations
In the past month, the “Islamic State” continued its operations in SDF-held areas, as ISIS carried out several armed attacks and assassinations through gunfire, attacks with sharp tools and planting IEDs and landmines. Despite the security campaigns by SDF and the International Coalition, including periodical arrests targeting ISIS cells and 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.
During the past month, the Syrian Observatory could document over 29 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 20 people dead as follows: four civilians and 16 members of Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) and Self-Defense Forces.
As daily fatalities are recorded and updated regularly, the number of people who were killed in areas within the four provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Al-Raqqah and Al-Hasakah, in addition to the SDF-held area of Manbij in the north-east of Aleppo rose to 756 fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials in service parties.
The Syrian Observatory documented the assassination of 264 civilians including 17 children and 11 women by armed cells in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, al-Hasakah countryside, al-Raqqah city and countryside, and Manbij area. In addition, 488 SDF fighters, including local leaders, were assassinated in the same areas.
Also, four members of International Coalition were killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Human also documented tens of injuries due to these assassinations.
Islamic State’s abductees: ignored and unaccounted
Although nearly 26 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 Ezzor.
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.