The Islamic State (IS) killed at least 48 people in suicide bombings on Wednesday and stormed villages in a southern Syrian province, the first attacks of this magnitude that IS has been carrying out for months.
The attacks took place in the province of Soueida, totally controlled by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. IS jihadists are present in a desert area north-east of the boundaries of this region.
According to the official Syrian media, the regime’s forces launched a counter-attack to repel the jihadists. Air raids have at the same time targeted the extremist group, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
“Four kamikazes have detonated their explosive belts in the city of Soueida”, capital of the province of the same name, told AFP the director of the OSDH, Rami Abdel Rahman.
Other suicide bombers attacked villages in the northeastern part of the province before the jihadists stormed them, he added. The extremist group managed to seize three villages.
At least 48 people, including 12 civilians and 32 pro-regime forces, were killed and dozens wounded, Abdel Rahman said.
For its part, the official Syrian agency Sana and the state television have confirmed dead and wounded in attacks in the province of Soueida, without giving a precise assessment.
“Army units have launched a counterattack [to fend off] Daesh terrorists,” state television said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The first attacks of this magnitude for months
Air raids have at the same time targeted jihadists, said Abdel Rahman.
Images released by the Syrian official media after the attacks show a corpse near a wall destroyed in the city of Soueida, as well as vegetables spread on the ground amid puddles of blood.
The jihadists present near the province of Soueida punctually carry out attacks against localities in the region.
But according to Mr. Abdel Rahman, Wednesday’s attacks are the first of such magnitude launched by the IS for months in Syria, where the jihadist organization has suffered multiple setbacks and controls only a handful of sectors.
They occur as the regime seeks to fully regain the provinces close to Deraa and Qouneitra, more than 90% controlled by the government.
In the south-west of Deraa province, an extremist group linked to the IS controls a slash, which has been targeted for several days by intense air raids by the regime and the Russian ally who want to dislodge the jihadists.
According to Sana, IS attacks in Soueida “are aimed at easing the military pressure” of the Syrian army against the last jihadists “who will be wiped out in the province of Deraa”.
IS controls less than 3% of territory
After having occupied large parts of Syria in 2014, the IS now controls less than 3% of the territory.
It is still present in a part of the province Deir Ezzor (east), in a desert area east of the city of Homs (center) and in some areas of the south of the country. Cells are also active in Idleb Province (northwest).
In June, the jihadist group launched an offensive against the regime-controlled city of Boukamal in Deir Ezzor province, with a series of suicide attacks. He had managed to seize half of the city before being driven out by the regime.
On Tuesday, the French commander of the US-led international anti-jihad coalition, General François Parisot, said the fighting against the latest IS fighters in Deir Ezzor is expected to last at least two or three weeks. three months “.
This coalition is helping an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters against ISIS in Syria.
Thanks to Russian military intervention in the war since 2015, the Syrian regime has managed to garner victories and has taken over 60% of the territory.
More than 350,000 people have been killed since 2011 in this conflict that has become more complex over the years with the involvement of foreign countries and jihadist groups, in a fragmented territory.
Seth Smoak is a reporter for Times Records. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Seth got an internship at the Pittsburgh Business Times and worked as a reporter and editor. Seth has also worked as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Seth covers economy and community events for Times Records.