ISIS continues its series of attacks on the Syrian Army in desert areas in central Syria.
Following the large attack on the army near Itriyah last week, ISIS cells stormed positions of pro-government forces in the vicinity of the city of al-Mayadin on the western bank of the Euphrates. According to pro-militant sources, the terrorists killed 8 Iranian-backed fighters and captured 3 others.
Earlier in June, the Iranian-backed militia Liwa al-Fatemiyoun deployed reinforcements to the al-Mayadin countryside in response to the growing threat of attacks from ISIS cells in the area. Nonetheless, without active actions, these reinforcements became a target of ISIS attacks themselves.
To contain the growing ISIS threat, the Syrian Air Force recently deployed attack helicopters and warplanes at Deir Ezzor Airport in order to employ them in raids against ISIS cells in the desert.
A former emir of ISIS’ Raqqa Wilayat, Fayz al-Akal, was killed as a result of a supposedly US drone strike in the Turkish-occupied town of al-Bab in northern Syria. Al-Akal and his younger brother Izzu al-Akal were killed by what is believed to by an AGM-114R9X Hellfire missile on June 20. Another one of Fayaz’s brothers Abu al-Harith was a commander of Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in Raqqa before it was fully captured by ISIS and was killed in a Syrian airstrike on 2013. Now, Jabhat al-Nusra is known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and controls most of Greater Idlib enjoying direct assistance from the Turkish Armed Forces that fiercely oppose any anti-terrorist operations there.
As to former ISIS members in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, a notable part of them fled to the Turkish-occupied areas where they joined either Turkish-backed militant groups or US-backed formations in northeastern Syria and in the al-Tanf area.
A firefight between the Syrian Army and Turkish-backed militants erupted near the villages of Umm Ushbah and al-Asadiyah in the province of al-Hasakah. The Turkish Army also shelled the village of Qubur al-Qrajina. While Turkish-led forces conducted no large-scale offensive action, the recent tensions on the contact line in northeastern Syria coincided with the deployment of additional forces of Turkish-backed militant groups. Therefore, Ankara may have been laying the groundwork for a new escalation in the region.
On June 19 and June 21, YPG-affiliated Kurdish rebels killed at least 13 members of Turkish-backed militant groups in Bosoufane in the Afrin region and al-Nu’man near al-Bab. Pro-Kurdish sources claim that YPG-linked cells will continue their attacks on Turkish-led forces as long as they occupy Afrin. These attacks are a constant source of concern of the Turkish side and one more destabilizing factor in northern Syria.