Kurdish-led SDF launches large-scale operation against ISIS in Syria

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a large-scale operation on Thursday against the Islamic State in Syria's Deir al-Zor province after a recent increase in attacks by the extremist group.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a large-scale operation on Thursday against the Islamic State in Syria's Deir al-Zor province after a recent increase in attacks by the extremist group.

The campaign, named “Deterrence of Terrorism,” is expected to last at least approximately one week.

“ISIS attacks have increased in the recent period, which poses a real threat to people’s safety, security and stability,” the SDF’s General Command said in a public statement on Friday.

The operation was launched in coordination with the Iraqi army and the US-led Coalition against the Islamic State.

SDF Commander Adnan Efrin told the local news agency Northpress that at least 6,000 SDF fighters are participating in the campaign in response to a call from civilians and tribal leaders to assist them amid the recent increase in activity of Islamic State sleeper cells.

The news agency reported that, on Thursday, four cell members were arrested in the village of Albu Hamdah outside the town of al-Dashisha in the southeastern countryside of Hasakah.

The SDF General Command said that the goal of the campaign will be to “pursue and track the cells of ISIS terrorist organization in the eastern Badia (desert) along the Khabour River and the Syrian-Iraqi border.”

“This campaign will target ISIS’s hideouts and hotbeds which were a source of concern to the people and that work to disturb security and stability in the region and constitute a threat that threatens the return of ISIS,” the SDF General Command said, adding that the effort is so far proceeding well and will continue until its objective is achieved.

Despite the SDF and the US-led Coalition announcing the Islamic State’s defeat in Syria in March 2019 at Baghouz, the terror group’s activity persists in areas the Kurdish-led forces previously liberated.

Representatives of the Coalition held a virtual meeting on Thursday, in which they affirmed their “shared determination to continue the fight against Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria and to create conditions for an enduring defeat of the terrorist group,” according to the joint communique of the conference.  

Read More: Anti-ISIS Coalition reaffirms commitment to continued fight 

Also on Thursday in neighboring Iraq, Islamic State gunmen killed four members of the same family during an assault in rural parts of a disputed district in Diyala province.

Read More: ISIS ups attacks as Coalition, Iraqi, and Peshmerga forces target hideouts

Back in Syria's Deir al-Zor province, Islamic State militants appear to be focusing on assassinating civilians working with the local Civil Council to drive the Arab population away from the SDF-affiliated Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES).

On May 27, Hudhaifa Al-Ahmad, an administrator for the financial office in the Services Committee of the Deir al-Zor Civil Council, was severely injured during an assassination attempt by Islamic State fighters in the al-Shuhail area of Deir al-Zor province, report the Hawar News Agency.

On Monday, Hamid Mohammed al-Dha’if, a commune leader – the equivalent of a town mayor in the local governing system set up by the Administration – was killed by unknown assailants at the al-Breiha town market in the eastern Deir al-Zor countryside, reported the Deir Ezzor 24 network.

Robin Fleming, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, previously told Kurdistan 24 that most of the SDF and Coalition operations are in Deir al-Zor because “subsequent to the fall of Baghouz, Deir al-Zor has seen the majority of sleeper-cell attacks.”

“But the increased focus on Deir al-Zor could also be due to the fact ISIS was seen distributing flyers threatening individuals connected on any level to the SDF or AANES.”

Editing by John J. Catherine