Syria: ISIS executes 8 Syrian regime soldiers

Five years after their territorial defeat, Islamic State persists in its campaign to create a caliphate, recently executing 8 Syrian regime soldiers according to The New Arab and agencies on March 31st.

This marks a total of 14 soldiers killed by ISIS in late March alone.

A recent United Nations (UN) report has announced that IS “has intensified attacks since November” in Syria, estimating IS’ strength across Iraq and Syria to number “between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters”. The UN Syria Commission of Inquiry has also recently warned that the country is facing the highest levels of violence since 2020.

At the height of IS control in 2014, the group controlled huge chunks of territory across Syria and Iraq, carrying out a terror campaign on both their home soil and abroad. While 2019 saw the reduction of their territorial control, IS failed to be wiped out completely. Since then, what is left of the group has maintained a deadly campaign against Kurdish fighters and pro-Assad forces.

The terror group is reportedly striving “to show it is able to launch attacks despite having lost” its territorial grip, according to the war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group continues to maintain a strong presence in Idlib, a province in north-western Syria, which has prompted recent targeting from pro-Assad forces.

IS has also come taken the media spotlight again, with their  alleged recent attack on a Moscow theatre that left 139 dead and 182 injured. Following this, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have warned that IS “still poses a great danger”, adding that the group is trying “to revive its dreams of regaining geographical control over some areas”.

READ: Daesh “still poses a great danger” says US-backed group

IS conducted the recent raid and execution of the 8 soldiers in Syria’s eastern and largely uninhabited Badia desert. The UN describes the desert as having “served as a logistics and operations hub” for IS.

The UK-based monitor reported the unit was travelling between the eastern cities of Sukhna and Deir ez-Zor. The 6 soldiers killed earlier on a separate ambush were also travelling between the eastern cities of Sukhna and Palmyra, “after they were taken prisoner” according to the Syrian Observatory.

This marks a deadly year for Assad’s forces – IS has killed over 200 soldiers and linked fighters – across multiple provinces in the eastern Syrian desert, compared to the regime forces’ killing of 24 IS fighters.

IS’ recent intensity is part of a wider escalation in regional tensions, with the US conducting airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq on February 3rd, leaving 39 dead. This was in response to the deaths of three US soldiers in a drone strike targeting a US base in Jordan, believed to have been carried out by the Iran-backed forces located in Syria.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 IS fighters are currently being held in over 20 detention centres across north-eastern Syria. With them, comes thousands of their children. The Kurdish-led SDF forces oversee the run-down camps and have recently warned the poor conditions are ripe for further radicalisation.

READ: Syria: Children pay price in refugee camps

The recent intensification of IS attacks have also resulted in 37 civilian deaths since the beginning of the year. The Syrian observatory reported 11 civilians were killed in northern Syria on 21st March, after searching for desert truffles to sell. Weeks earlier, IS launched its deadliest attack in over a year, leaving 18 civilians dead and dozens injured or missing.

This bears a broader trend of civilians left to pay the price for the multitude of actors embroiled in Syria’s brutal conflict.

The New Arab / Agencies

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