Islamic state militants launched coordinated attacks on Wednesday July 25th against villages in the southern province of Sweida. The attacks coincided with suicide bombings in the provincial capital Sweida. The director of Health in the Sweida province said 215 people had been killed in the attacks. The casualties included Syrian regime fighters and civilians.
Locals reported that Islamic State militants had infiltrated several villages on the eastern edges of Sweida unnoticed and slaughtered entire families in the early morning before clashes with regime forces began.
According to the state news agency SANA, two Islamic State suicide bombers blew themselves up in Sweida city, while another suicide bomber was captured before he could set off his bomb in the Sweida Hospital. Pro-regime Ikhbariya TV said one of the bombers attacked a vegetable market in the city at 5 a.m., a busy time for people at the start of their day. The bomber drove through the market on a motorcycle and blew himself up, the TV station said. The second attacker hit in another busy square in the city.
However, by afternoon, members of the regime forces and allied militia had secured the villages captured from Islamic State and repelled the attacks. Regime sources said Islamic State lost dozens of fighters in the attacks. The Islamic State fighters also took about 40 civilians hostage before being pushed out of eastern Sweida villages by regime forces.
Islamic State’s official media outlet claimed responsibility for these attacks and posted photos of the beheading of regime fighters captured in the attacks. According to the group’s statement, their attacks killed and wounded more than 100 members of the regime forces. The attacks represent one of the bloodiest single Islamic State acts of terrorism to take place in Sweida and, indeed, the entire country.
Islamic State gained a foothold in Sweida after a deal with the regime last May in which hundreds of Islamic State fighters in the Yarmouk Camp district in southern Damascus city were relocated to a desert area in eastern Sweida.
Regime forces and allied militia hold all of Sweida province, populated mostly by members of the Druze minority sect. The city of Sweida has largely been spared most of the violence that other Syrian cities have witnessed in the years since the conflict started in 2011.
The attacks came after a month-long offensive by Syrian forces took control of the rebel-held parts of Daraa and Quneitra provinces in the south. The regime offensive, supported by Russian airstrikes, is now focused on a pocket held by Islamic State in western Daraa Province on the border with Israel.
Although Islamic State has been losing territory since 2015 to its opponents in the Syrian war, including Russian support for the regime, US supported Kurdish forces and Turkish supported rebels, Islamic State has shown the ability to carry out surprise raids, killing dozens of regime and other anti-Islamic State force members. Islamic State maintains control of five isolated pockets in southern and eastern Syria, one of which is on the eastern edges of Sweida province.