Accessibility links

Breaking News

Islamic State Militants Stepping Up Attacks in Eastern, Central Syria


FILE - A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria, Oct.18, 2017.

According to local reports, militants linked to the Islamic State terror group have stepped up their attacks in eastern and central Syria in recent days.

The local North Press Agency reports that at least two Syrian government soldiers were killed Monday in an attack carried out by suspected IS fighters near the ancient town of Palmyra in central Syria.

The militants reportedly targeted a checkpoint guarded by Syrian army soldiers from the 4th Division, concealing themselves behind a seized military vehicle.

Local news reports say at least seven Syrian government soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were killed two days prior in two separate IS attacks in eastern Syria.

IS militants continue to undertake massive attacks against their opponents in Syria and Iraq, despite losing nearly all of the land they once controlled.

The group has been particularly active in Syria's Badia desert, which is controlled by government forces, Iranian- and Russian-backed militias in central Syria.

FILE - Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad ride on pick-up trucks mounted with weapons in the Badia, in the southeast Syrian desert, in this handout picture provided by SANA , June 13, 2017.
FILE - Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad ride on pick-up trucks mounted with weapons in the Badia, in the southeast Syrian desert, in this handout picture provided by SANA , June 13, 2017.

Russia and Iran are two main supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

"The Badia is a very interesting area in Syria right now," said Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"It connects regime-held areas to those controlled by Turkish-backed groups in parts of northern and western Syria," he told VOA. "And so [IS] militants can roam between the two areas and manage to avoid Russian airstrikes."

In response to increasing IS activity in the area, Russian planes on Monday carried out at least 15 airstrikes against hideouts believed to belong to the militants, according to the Syrian Observatory.

Omar Abu Layla heads Deir Azzour 24, a journalism and research group focused on developments in eastern Syria. Abu Layla says the current acceleration of IS strikes is a result of two factors.

"The first one is merely an attempt to boost the morale of its fighters and to show its supporters that the group is still capable of conducting deadly operations against any opposing force," he told VOA.

The other factor, Abu Layla said, is "that they try to end the nearly absolute sway of Iranian forces on the military supply line that stretches from the Iraqi border all the way to Shayrat airbase in Homs province and other areas in Syria."

IS also has active cells in some areas under the control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria, particularly in Deir el-Zour province.

In October, 21 anti-IS operations were carried out by the SDF, the group said Monday. The operations, supported by the U.S.-led coalition troops, resulted in the arrest of 51 IS suspects, also known as Daesh.

"These joint operations demonstrate our mutual commitment as partners to deny Daesh any presence to influence in Northeast Syria," the coalition said on Twitter.

This story originated in VOA’s Kurdish Service.

XS
SM
MD
LG