ALEPPO, Syria — In the weekly issue of the Islamic State's (IS) al-Nabaa newspaper on Oct. 7, IS announced that its cells carried out 59 military operations in the span of 68 days, from Aug. 1 through Oct. 5.
The operations caused the death of 103 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and 19 soldiers of the Syrian government forces, according to al-Nabaa.
Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria had the largest share of IS operations in the past two months with 30 attacks, including shootings, explosive devices, ambushes and two car bombs, which caused the destruction of 34 military vehicles across the province, according to IS’ newspaper.
Zain al-Akaidi, a journalist based in the Kurdish-controlled Deir ez-Zor countryside, told Al-Monitor that “IS focused its attacks on Kurdish areas in the Deir ez-Zor countryside.”
“This is because of several reasons, mainly the weak security services of the Kurds and the rampant corruption and violations within Deir ez-Zor’s military council of the SDF headed by Ahmad al-Khabil,” he said.
“This is not to mention the widespread presence of IS cells in several locations in Deir ez-Zor, which is open to the Syrian desert. Also, IS operatives move around easily in the area as they are supported by local tribes that provide the group’s members with protection and support to keep targeting the SDF," Akaidi added.
IS' Oct. 7 announcement came in the aftermath of the killing of one of the group’s fighters in a US drone strike in the village of Hammam al-Turkman in northeast Syria on Oct. 10.
Earlier on Oct. 6, the US military announced the killing of three IS officials in separate operations in northeast Syria.
“The recent US-led coalition’s operations that targeted prominent IS leaders were meant to limit the group’s activities, but they didn't bring them to a halt. IS cells, notably in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, are capable of finding new replacements for their leaders who were considered the masterminds behind the group’s activities,” Akaidi said.
Anas Shawakh, a researcher at the Istanbul-based Jusoor Center for Studies, told Al-Monitor, “The announced number of attacks and operations bears several indications. IS is trying to convey a message that it has avenged its partisans in the al-Hol camp, which was [recently] subject to a security campaign launched by the SDF in cooperation with the US-led coalition.”
“IS also wants to say that the group is still strong and its cells continue to be active despite the killing of their leaders. It was also noted that the group used car bombs over the past two months, which is an indication of the ease and escalation of its activities, with its members moving easily and intensifying threats against the Kurdish forces,” Shawakh added.
After the end of the group’s effective control in Syria in March 2019, IS remnant fighters sought refuge in the Syrian desert, which extends between the provinces of As-Suwayda and Deir ez-Zor on the border with Iraq, while large numbers of cells remained spread in separate areas.