Spotlight on Global Jihad (7-13 September 2017)

e billowing from the explosion of an ISIS car bomb, which hit a gathering of SDF forces near the Al-Barazi Square (Aamaq, 9 September 2017).

e billowing from the explosion of an ISIS car bomb, which hit a gathering of SDF forces near the Al-Barazi Square (Aamaq, 9 September 2017).

Pictures posted by ISIS from the clashes around the Al-Taym oil field (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

Pictures posted by ISIS from the clashes around the Al-Taym oil field (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

Pictures posted by ISIS from the clashes around the Al-Taym oil field (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

Pictures posted by ISIS from the clashes around the Al-Taym oil field (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

A rocket fired by ISIS operatives toward an SDF position in the Al Dar’iyah neighborhood in northeast Al-Raqqah (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

A rocket fired by ISIS operatives toward an SDF position in the Al Dar’iyah neighborhood in northeast Al-Raqqah (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 10 September 2017).

Eid Al-Adha celebrations in eastern Mosul (Nineveh Media Center, 9 September 2017).

Eid Al-Adha celebrations in eastern Mosul (Nineveh Media Center, 9 September 2017).

A call on the tribes in Yemen to join ISIS (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017)

A call on the tribes in Yemen to join ISIS (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017)

Main events of the week
  • This week the battle against ISIS focused on Syria in the Deir ez-Zor area on two fronts concurrently. From the south the Syrian regime forces and their allies, with Russian air support, continued their take-over of territory in the vicinity of the city. In this effort they retool the military air base, the Al-Tim oilfield and the road leading to Damascus. From the north the SDF forces, supported by the USA and Kurdish People’s Protection units advanced toward the city and reached as close as six kilometers from the banks of the Euphrates River opposite the city.
  • In Iraq the security forces are continuing their preparations for the taking of Al-Hawija, one of ISIS’ last strongholds in the state. ISIS operatives carried out several attacks against Iraqi security forces in Mosul.
  • The ISIS information bureaus in the various provinces are expressing the distress the organization is experiencing. They have posted messages encouraging ISIS operatives to continue the fight, calling on Muslims around the world to join it and carry out attacks against the western countries, mainly the USA.
Russia and the Coalition Countries
Russian activity in Deir ez-Zor
  • Following information the Russian received about a meeting of ISIS commanders in the Deir ez-Zor area, two Russian Air Force planes, which took off from the Hamimim Air Base carried out an attack. According to the Russian reports, an underground command post and a communication center were destroyed in the attack. Also, the attack killed forty ISIS operatives, among them four senior commanders. One of the dead is Abu Muhammad al-Shimali, the commander (emir) of Deir ez-Zor who was responsible for finances and the transfer of new recruits to ISIS training camps. It was said that Gulmurod Khalimov, the ISIS “war minister”, was present at the meeting and critically injured. He was evacuated to the Al-Muhasan area, 20 km southwest of Deir ez-Zour (Facebook page of the Russian Defense Ministry, 8 September 2017).
The De-Escalation Zones
  • The Russian Defense Ministry held a press conference in which Sergey Rudskoy, head of operations in the Russian General Staff, announced the setting up of a deconfliction zone at Tel Rifaat, in northern Syria on the Turkish border in the southern part of the Kurdish enclave at Afrin. As opposed to de-escalation zones, this time the area is intended to prevent friction between the Kurdish forces, part of which have left the area and been replaced by Syrian army forces, and forces of the Free Syrian Army. Rudskoy said Russian military police forces have already begun arriving in the area and that they are working in two roadblocks and four observation posts (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, 6 September 2017).

The Russian-declared deconfliction zone at Tel Rifaat (surrounded by the red circle) and details of the deployment of the military police positions and roadblocks set up in the area (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, 6 September 2017).
The Russian-declared deconfliction zone at Tel Rifaat (surrounded by the red circle) and details of the deployment of the military police positions and roadblocks set up in the area (website of the Russian Defense Ministry, 6 September 2017).

The International Coalition against ISIS
  • The International Coalition against ISIS, headed by the United States, announced that in an attack carried out by aircraft, 85 ISIS operatives who were part of the convoy in the Syrian desert were killed. The coalition stressed that the attack was carried out after the organization’s operatives moved away from the convoy in which they were traveling with their families and that at the time of the attack it was clear that the civilians in the convoy would not be harmed (Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath, 8 September 2017). This was an ISIS operatives convoy which included their families, who had been evacuated from the Qalamoun region in Lebanon as a part of withdrawal agreement between the Syrian regime and Hezbollah on the one hand and the organization on the other.
  • The International Coalition against ISIS announced that in an aerial attack, carried out by coalition aircraft on 4 September 2017, two senior ISIS operatives were killed. The attack was carried out near Al-Mayadin in eastern Syria, which has become a safe haven for ISIS leaders. The two dead were “external” operatives of the organization (website of Operation Inherent Resolve, 7 September 2017):
    • Abu Anas Al-Shami, was an expert in weapons. Al-Shami was at the head of ISIS attempts to purchase explosives for use in the organization’s terror attacks outside Syria and Iraq. He was also responsible for assembling improvised explosive devices used against local forces and civilians.
    • Junaid Rahman, a senior operative in the field of UAVs. Junaid Rahman was an engineer who worked to strengthen ISIS’ capabilities with UAVs. He was killed in a village south of Al-Mayadin.
Main developments in Syria
The campaign to take over Al-Raqqah

The campaign to complete the capture of Al-Raqqah by the SDF forces, with aerial assistance from the International Coalition forces, is continuing. The coalition aircraft attacked ISIS targets, especially in the center of the city and in its outskirts. this week there has been little progress on the ground. The clashes between the opposing sides included sniper fire and artillery shelling which resulted in casualties on both sides.

  • The SDF forces overran the courthouse in the center of Al-Raqqah and killed 17 ISIS operatives including senior operatives. Also, SDF forces captured the neighborhood of Al-Dar’iyah in northwestern Al-Raqqah, and advanced toward the neighborhood of Al-Murour to the southwest of the Old City (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 9 September 2017).
  • ISIS posted a video clip documenting an attack their operatives carried out using a car bomb against a gathering of SDF forces near Al-Barazi Square on the northeastern outskirts of the old city (Aamaq, 9 September 2017)[1].
The campaign to take over the Deir ez-Zor area

The campaign to take over Deir ez-Zor is proceeding along two parallel efforts. On the south bank of the Euphrates the Syrian regime forces and their allies are operating. On the northern bank, SDF forces and Kurdish People’s Protection units (YPG), supported by the USA. The forces of the Syrian regime and their allies have had several successes: they have breached the siege of the airport, captured the Al-Taym Oil Field and the road leading to Damascus. At the same time forces supported by the coalition attacked in the northern part of the governorate in a campaign titled Island Storm. The forces advanced as close as six kilometers from the banks of the Euphrates River opposite the city.

  • Following are the main accomplishments of the Syrian army:
    • On 9 September 2017 it was reported that Syrian army forces and their supporters, with Russian assistance, lifted the siege on the military airport located in the southwest of the city and released the Syrian army soldiers who had been trapped in it. The regime forces also captured the power station south of the airport (Dimashq al-Aan, 10 September 2017)[2]. The regime forces said that after they had captured the Al-Tharda ridge dominating the airport from the south, it will be able to resume operations (Dimashq al-Aan, 10 September 2017).
 The Al-Tharda mountains dominating the military airport of Deir ez-Zor (Youtube account of Somar Hatem, 9 September, 2017).   The military airport of Deir ez-Zor.
Right: The military airport of Deir ez-Zor. Left: The Al-Tharda mountains dominating the military airport of Deir ez-Zor (Youtube account of Somar Hatem, 9 September, 2017).
Hezbollah fighters waving the flags of the organization and Syria, following the capture of the airport (battle information institute of the Syrian Army, 11 September 2017).    One of the Syrian soldiers who were besieged in the military airport (Youtube channel of Syrian television SyriaTVChannels7, 9 September 2017).
Right: One of the Syrian soldiers who were besieged in the military airport (Youtube channel of Syrian television SyriaTVChannels7, 9 September 2017). Left: Hezbollah fighters waving the flags of the organization and Syria, following the capture of the airport (battle information institute of the Syrian Army, 11 September 2017).
  • The Syrian army captured the Al Taym Oil Field and the adjoining areas south of Deir ez-Zor (Syrian television, 9 September 2017). The capture of the oil field, which is close to the main Al-Sukhnah - Deir ez-Zor road, brings the Syrian army closer to Al-Mayadin, another ISIS stronghold in the area. Many ISIS operatives were reported fleeing the city of Al-Mayadin (battle information institute of the Syrian Army, 10 September 2017).
  • The operations commander of the Syrian army in Deir ez-Zor announced that his forces had captured the road connecting Deir ez-Zor with the rest of Syria and that now the road to Damascus was open and secured (Al-Mayadin, 10 September, Dimashq al-Aan, 11 September 2017).
  • Several neighborhoods have been captured including Harabish) and Al Tahtouh on the southeast of the city (Syrian television, 9 September 2017). The Syrian army has also regained control of the town of Al-Shoula, some 31 km southwest of Deir ez-Zor. Additionally, the Syrian army has captured overlooking hills and positions in the area (Syrian television, 9 September, 2017).
  • Clashes broke out between regime forces and ISIS operatives on the Al-Panorama area southwest of Deir ez-Zor (Hatwa, 8 September 2017). The engineering units of the Syrian army diffused IEDs which were laid in the Al-Panorama area as a preparation for the entry of the forces into the area (Dimashq al-Aan, 10 September 2017).
  • The United States has announced that SDF forces and Kurdish people’s Protection Forces (YPG), supported by the USA, had begun an offensive against ISIS as a part of an operation nicknamed Island Storm, which is intended to capture the eastern Euphrates areas and defeat ISIS north of Deir ez-Zor. The operation began south of Al-Hasakah which is under the control of the Democratic Forces, where the goal is to reach the Euphrates on the Syria-Iraq border (Al-Dirar Al-Shamia, 9 September 2017). It was said that the forces overran several points northwest of Deir ez-Zor and that they had reached within 6 km of the banks of the Euphrates opposite the city (local coordination committees, 9 September 2017, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 13 September 2017). According to the general commander of the operation, the coalition forces would be supporting the fighting forces and providing them with equipment, training, intelligence and logistical support. After the area will be cleared of ISIS presence, it will be returned to the control of elected bodies of the local citizens (website of Operation Inherent Resolve, 9 September 2017).
  • ISIS operatives attempted to hit the forces operating from the north in an attempt to stall their advance. On 10 September 2017 ISIS reported that its operatives had carried out a suicide attack against a gathering of SDF forces near Al-Kharafi, some 20 km northeast of Deir ez-Zor. That same day ISIS reported that an armored vehicle and a heavy machine gun belonging to the forces had been destroyed near the village of Al-Kharafi after antitank rockets were fired at it by the organization’s operatives. Another suicide attack was carried out against the SDF forces north of Deir ez-Zor (Aamaq, 10 September 2017).
The area east of Homs
  • Following clashes with ISIS operatives, the regime forces captured several villages east of Homs. 13 Syrian army soldiers were killed in the clashes in the village of Abu Lia (Al-Sham Network, 8 September 2017). One of the villages captured is Umm Sahreej, 48 km east of Homs. The village had been an ISIS command post, which had served as a departure point for attacks against villages in the rural region east of Homs. ISIS suffered many dead in the clashes. Weapons and equipment were also destroyed (Syrian television, 9 September 2017).
  • The Twitter account of a person by the name of Mohammed Nour posted a photo of a message from an operative named Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shami, head of the ISIS general executive committee. The message calls on the organization’s operatives fighting in the Homs region to stand firm, to be patient and hold out, to obey their leaders and repel the Syrian offensives (Twitter page of Mohammed Nour, 11 September 2017).
Main developments in Iraq
Mosul
  • Despite the declaration that the recapture of the city has been completed and that the work on rebuilding it had begun, there were still several pockets left in the city where ISIS cells were active against the Iraqi security forces. On 9 September 2017 ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack against the Iraqi army’s intelligence staff building in the Al-Nur neighborhood on the northeast of the city. At least six Iraqi soldiers and members of the Al Hashed Al Shaabi militia, which is helping the Iraqi forces in its battle against ISIS, were hurt in the attack and some of them were killed. The same day ISIS destroyed an Iraqi army vehicle near the Al-Shallalat neighborhood in the city’s northeast. The organization claimed that all of the crew members were killed. ISIS also reported it had executed an Iraqi government “spy” in the Al-Akha’a neighborhood in the northeast of the city (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 9 September 2017).
Al-Hawija
  • It seems the next target of the Iraqi security forces, assisted by the International Coalition against ISIS is the town of Al-Hawija which is still under ISIS control and located about 130 km southeast of Mosul. In preparation for the campaign to take over the town, Coalition aircraft attacked ISIS targets in the area. A local Iraqi source said that following the attack by the International Coalition aircraft against the ISIS positions in the area, explosions were heard in three command posts belonging to the organization (Al Sumaria, 10 September 2017). On 8 September 2017 a local source said that seven senior ISIS commanders had been killed in an attack by Coalition aircraft in the center of the Al-Hawija district (Al Sumaria, 8 September 2017).
Other attacks against ISIS
  • Anah – Diyala - Iraqi security forces, including the Al Hashed Al Shaabi militia which is supporting the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS, carried out operations against ISIS in the Diyala province north of Bagdad with support from the Iraqi air force. The clashes took place in wadis northeast of the city of Baqubah. ISIS casualties were reported, including the ISIS commander (emir) in the Diyala area. Also, the killing of 15 ISIS operatives and the destruction of five buildings which served the ISIS operatives were reported in the attacks carried out by Iraqi air force aircraft (Al Sumaria, 9 September 2017). According to an Iraqi security source, ISIS documents were found in the area which included lists of the organization’s operatives (Al Sumaria, 9 September 2017).
 Iraqi army forces and forces of the Al Hashed Al Shaabi during the military operation in northeast Diyala (Afak, 11 September 2017).   Iraqi army forces and forces of the Al Hashed Al Shaabi during the military operation in northeast Diyala (Afak, 11 September 2017).
Iraqi army forces and forces of the Al Hashed Al Shaabi during the military operation in northeast Diyala (Afak, 11 September 2017).
  • Al-Ramadi - on 9 September 2017 it was reported that in an attack carried out by the International Coalition against ISIS aircraft west of the city of Al-Ramadi, several ISIS operatives wee killed and an ISIS command building and car bomb were destroyed (Al Sumaria, 9 September 2017).
  • Al-Qa’im - the Iraqi Air Force attacked ISIS targets in the city near the Iraq-Syria border which are still under ISIS control. The attack destroyed an ISIS weapons and ammunition storehouse and a command post that had served for gatherings of the city’s ISIS commanders (Al Sumaria, 10 September 2017).
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
  • The Sinai Province of the Islamic State carried out a coordinated attack against a convoy of Egyptian security forces in western El-Arish. 18 Egyptian policemen were killed in the attack including a brigadier-general. Seven policemen were injured. The attack apparently included the detonation of a car bomb in the middle of a convoy of Egyptian security forces which was traveling on the road from Bir El-Abd toward El-Arish, followed by the ISIS operatives storming the convoy and firing at it (Al-Watan, Al Masry Al Youm, 11 September 2017). This is the most severe attack since 7 July 2017 when an Egyptian position was attacked in the Tarabin tribal territory in the Rafah area, which caused the death of more than twenty Egyptian soldiers.
  • ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack: in its message they said a suicide bomber codenamed Abu Suleiman al-Masri detonated the car bomb he had been driving after penetrating a column of motorized Egyptian police forces, which consisted of eight vehicles. Following that, ISIS operatives fired at the Egyptian forces killing most of the men and setting the vehicles on fire. Another ISIS squad ambushed the forces which were on their way to support (Aamaq, Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 11 September 2017).
 ISIS claim of responsibility   Documentation of the attack (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 11 September 2017)
Right: Documentation of the attack. Left: ISIS claim of responsibility (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 11 September 2017)
Al-Jizah Governorate
  • Acting on information that had reached the Egyptian security forces on operatives who had fled the Sinai Peninsula to the Kardasa area in the Al-Jizah Governorate the security forces arrived at two apartments where the operatives were staying. After a stand-off with the forces, which lasted four hours, ten ISIS operatives were killed. Weapons and quantities of cash were found in the two apartments (Al-Youm Al-Sabaa, 10 September 2017).
The conduct of the Islamic State
Encouraging ISIS operatives to carry on the fighting
  • An editorial published in the last issue of the Al Naba’ weekly, which is issued by the ISIS information bureau said that the Al-Sham desert would be the scene of wide-spread fighting in the coming months and that the outcome of the fighting would be decisive for the war in Syria as a whole. According to the editorial, the ISIS soldiers have to do their utmost to wear down the Syrian regime army and destroy its forces deployed in the desert. This would be possible because the Syrian army is too weak to withstand desert warfare. Furthermore, the enemy’s arms and equipment should be looted since this is their main source of funding and supplies. It is very important also to seek the positions of the Russian and Iranian soldiers and to strike at them with all possible force, to take them prisoner since they are of higher value than others for future prisoner swaps and their loss would embarrass the Syrian regime in front of its allies (Al Naba’, issue 96, 7 September 2017).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi Arabian authorities announced that the State Security Apparatus, a recently-established body, has succeeded in foiling an attempted suicide attack ISIS operatives had been planning against two buildings of the Ministry of Defense in Riadh. Among the suspects are Saudi and Yemenite citizens. The terrorists were captured while en route to carrying out the attack. They were found to have in their possession suicide vests weighing seven kilograms each, knives and nine improvised hand grenades (Asharq Al-Awsat, 12 September 2017).
 The suicide vests found with the arrested terrorists.   The suicide vests found with the arrested terrorists.
Right: The suicide vests found with the arrested terrorists. Left: Two ISIS suicide bombers, captured with Yemeni citizenship (Al-Arabiya, 12 September 2017).
The Battle for Hearts and Minds
ISIS calls on its operatives to poison food products and attack swimming pools in the west
  • ISIS, in its Euphrates Governorate Telegram account, sent out a call to its supporters in the west, and especially in Europe, to poison food products in the markets and stores. The organization called on workers in stores or abattoirs to insert cyanide into vegetables, fruit or meat and to mix it into wines. It also said that the cyanide had been tried out on prisoners and that it works (Al-Arabiya, 9 September 2017).
  • ISIS also suggested that its supporters cause panic among the general public by posting threats to blow up critical places, to spread the messages in the streets or to place them in mail boxes. ISIS called for attacks against swimming pools in Europe (Asharq Al-Awsat, 9 September 2017).
Threats against the United States
  • Various ISIS provinces have posted video clips in which they called upon Muslims to join the ranks of the organization and threatened revenge against the United States for the attacks it has been carrying out against ISIS:
  • The ISIS Al-Raqqah province posted a clip in which the organization threatens the United States for the attacks carried out by its aircraft against the city of Al-Raqqah. The announcer said that the United States would fall just like “the infidel empires before it” and that the United States would be punished for its “crimes”. An ISIS operative from the organization’s anti-aircraft force who appeared in the clip promised that American planes would be shot down and that the fate of the American pilots would be the same as the fate of Al-Kasasbeh (the Jordanian pilot who had been set on fire by ISIS). Later on there are documentation bytes from suicide attacks carried out by ISIS operatives in the city of Al-Raqqah, presenting the attackers as role models. At the end of the clip the speaker threatens those who have strayed from the path of Islam, referring to the Kurdish fighters, saying that the organization has a long score to settle with them (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 5 September 2017).
An ISIS operative from the anti-aircraft force promising the American aircraft would be shot down (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 5 September 2017).   A staff member at a hospital in Al-Raqqah saying civilians have been arriving, injured by US attacks and artillery of the Kurdish forces (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 5 September 2017).
Right: A staff member at a hospital in Al-Raqqah saying civilians have been arriving, injured by US attacks and artillery of the Kurdish forces (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 5 September 2017). Left: An ISIS operative from the anti-aircraft force promising the American aircraft would be shot down (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 5 September 2017).
  • In a video posted by the Kirkuk province, a masked American ISIS operative appears, attacking the United States and wondering how it purports to defeat the jihad when ten years ago, when the jihadi movement was a lot smaller, they had failed to do so. He also calls on ISIS operatives to hold out as their brothers had done in Mosul, where they were able to wear down the enemy and incur heavy casualties on them. He also said that although ISIS had lost territories, it had won the ideological and morale battle and that the victory on the ground was “only a matter of time”. Speaking to Muslims around the world, he calls on them to take whichever action is convenient for them: either emigration or following in the footsteps of the “lone wolves” who took action in the west and to kill “crusader” civilians in their lands (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017).
  • On 6 September 2017, the Al-Bida’ province of ISIS in Yemen posted a video in which the organization’s operatives called upon the members of the tribes in Yemen to join ISIS (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017).

A call on the tribes in Yemen to join ISIS (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017)
A call on the tribes in Yemen to join ISIS (Akhbar Al-Muslimeen, 6 September 2017)

[1] The Al-Barazi Square is one of the three locations in Al-Raqqah where the SDF forces have suffered the highest number of casualties. According to an infograph released by ISIS, between 4 June 2017 and 4 July 2017, 35 SDF fighters have been killed in the square (Abarah Press, 17 July 2017).
[2] In a first interview of its kind given by a senior Hezbollah commander in the Deir ez-Zor region, who identified himself as Abu Mustafa, he said the capture of the airport was a great victory achieved thanks to the Syrian regime forces, Iran, Russia and the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, who contributed military, logistical and moral support to the battle. He said he was appearing in front of the media following orders from Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah Secretary-General, and the organization’s leadership, and that his appearance was intended to highlight the full cooperation between Hezbollah and all of the other forces in that victory. In his words, Hezbollah is present in all the conflict areas in Syria and is prepared to act according to the battle needs (Al-Mayadin, 9 September 2017).