Coordinated Islamic State Attacks in Syria Kill Dozens

Leroy Wright
July 26, 2018

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks hit several areas of the largely government-held southern province of Sweida, where IS retains a presence in a northeastern desert region.

A poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is displayed on the door of a souvenir store in the old town of Damascus on July 18.

"ISIS fighters then stormed villages in the province's northeast and killed residents in their homes", the head of the Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman said. But repeated attacks by both Syrian government forces and USA -backed Kurdish fighters have slowly pushed them back until their territory is a fraction of what it once was.

Photographs distributed on social media, which Reuters could not independently verify but which the Observatory said were genuine, purported to show the bodies of Islamic State fighters hanged from street signs by angry residents.

The suicide blasts and raids killed at least 183, including 89 civilians, in one of the group's deadliest ever assaults in the country.

Omar, a resident of Sweida city, told AFP explosions began rocking the city around 5:30 am local time.

Syria's state news agency said two more militants were killed by security forces and one was arrested before they could detonate their explosives.

A local fighter in Suwayda province on Wednesday
A local fighter in Suwayda province on Wednesday

Initially, the Islamic State took advantage of the instability caused by the more than seven-year-long Syrian civil war to establish its caliphate in 2014.

The rare attacks in Sweida, populated mainly by Syria's minority Druze, came amid a government offensive elsewhere in the country's south. Government forces are battling the IS-linked group near the frontier with Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and near the border with Jordan.

The bloodiest death toll in Sweida since the start of the Syrian conflict came as Syrian government controls nearly all of the province, but Daesh has control over pockets of land in its desert northern and eastern parts.

It is now closing in on a patch of territory in nearby Daraa province held by Jaish Khaled bin al-Walid, which has pledged allegiance to IS.

Last month, Assad launched a lightning assault that battered rebel areas in the south and brought most of Daraa province under his control.

This is nearly certainly why ISIS chose to target them, as opposed to other cities in the south, which up until recently had been rebel controlled.

On Wednesday, Russia-backed regime forces pressed their heavy bombardment of the IS-held pocket in Daraa. The operation has focused on Deraa and Quneitra provinces.

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