Spotlight on Global Jihad
The third bridge on the Tigris River destroyed by coalition airstrikes (Al-Jazeera, November 24, 2016).
Part of the weapons seized by ISIS in Al-Masayed (Haqq, November 26, 2016)
An Iraqi Army airstrike against ISIS targets in Al-Masayed (Facebook page of the Iraqi Army counterterrorism apparatus, November 27, 2016)
The suicide bomber Abu Assad the Dagestani.
The suicide bomber Abu Yasser the Dagestani (Haqq, November 27, 2016)
The devastation caused in Mosul’s eastern industrial zone, according to a propaganda video released by ISIS (Haqq, November 26, 2016)
A Syrian APC patrolling the Al-Haydariyah neighborhood of Aleppo.
ISIS anti-aircraft fire at Free Syrian Army and Turkish Army forces that tried to advance toward Qabasin (Haqq, November 26, 2016)
ISIS’s suicide bomber Hamza al-Khorasani, who carried out the terrorist attack at a Shiite mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the background of an ISIS flag (Haqq, November 21, 2016)
Main events of the week
This week, Syrian Army forces with Russian air support continued to take over neighborhoods held by the rebel organizations in the northern part of east Aleppo. So far, they have taken more than a third of east Aleppo. Apparently, their aim is to separate the northern part of east Aleppo from its southern part and then cleanse the southeast of the city from rebel organizations’ presence and record a decisive military achievement with far-reaching political implications.
There were no significant developments in the campaign for Mosul. The Iraqi Army has taken over several additional neighborhoods in the east of the city while the advancing forces in the south are still “stuck” at a distance of about 20 km from Mosul due to ISIS’s fierce resistance. ISIS on its part continues to make extensive use of suicide bombers and car bombs in Mosul and carry out guerrilla warfare and terrorist attacks throughout Iraq.
In the southern Golan Heights, the first incident of its kind occurred this week between an IDF force and operatives of the Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigade affiliated with ISIS. ISIS operatives opened fire at an IDF force. An Israeli aircraft attacked their vehicle and four operatives were killed. In addition, an Israeli aircraft attacked a facility used by ISIS in the southern Golan Heights.
ISIS keeps encouraging its supporters to carry out terrorist attacks around the world, mainly in the West, and even distributes videos guiding how to do so. A tone of urgency and disappointment is evident in one of these videos, due to the fact that so far, ISIS’s appeals have not been responded (the video addresses Muslims in Britain, “Why does it take you so long to offer support for your religion?”) At this stage, there’s a discrepancy between ISIS’s plans and intentions and a failure to execute them on the ground. The efforts to bring about terrorist attacks abroad are likely to continue (the forthcoming Christmas and New Year’s Eve may be preferable dates).
The campaign for Mosul
- Documents recently published, reportedly seized in Mosul, reveal full names of ISIS operatives, names of their units and commanders, as well as a list of Russian weapons held by ISIS. The weapons mentioned there included Kalashnikov assault rifles, RPG-7 shoulder launchers, sniper rifles and more. According to an Iraqi Army retired general, ISIS took these weapons from Iraqi Army armories in Mosul and rebel organizations in Syria following ISIS’s takeover of vast territories in Syria and Iraq (Sputnik, November 24, 2016).
The military effort in the east
- During the week, Iraqi Army forces reportedly took over several more neighborhoods in the east of the city (Al-Mayadeen, November 27, 2016). The Iraqi government counterterrorism apparatus announced on November 27, 2016, that its forces were fighting against ISIS operatives in the Al-Barid neighborhood, northeast of Mosul (Facebook page of the Nineveh Information Center, November 27, 2016). The Iraqi Army announced on November 28, 2016, that its counterterrorism apparatus had managed to take over the neighborhoods of Al-Masaref and Al-Qahera in northeast Mosul (Al-Sumaria, November 28, 2016).
The military effort in the south
- This week as well, there was no further substantial advance of the Iraqi army from the south, due to ISIS’s fierce resistance. Apparently, fighting still continues at a distance of about 20 km from Mosul. ISIS claimed that its operatives had taken over an Iraqi Army post near the town of Al-Masayed (about 20 km southwest of Mosul), killed its soldiers and seized their weapons (Haqq, November 26, 2016). According to the Iraqi government counterterrorism apparatus, a total of 45 ISIS operatives had been killed and two car bombs had been destroyed in an Iraqi Army airstrike in the area of Al-Masayed (Facebook page of the Iraqi Army counterterrorism apparatus, November 27, 2016).
- Fighting in Mosul’s eastern neighborhoods, ISIS continues to make massive use of car or truck bombs driven by suicide bombers. An “Iraqi security source” reported that seven car bombs had been destroyed in east Mosul by coalition airstrikes (Facebook page of the Nineveh Information Center, November 27, 2016). On November 27, 2016, ISIS released the photos of two suicide bombers originating from Dagestan who carried out a suicide attack in northeast Mosul against Iraqi Army forces (Haqq, November 27, 2016).
- At the same time, ISIS continues its wave of terrorist attacks and guerilla warfare in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. Outstanding this week was a terrorist attack carried out by a truck bomb driven by a suicide bomber in the city of Hillah (about 100 km south of Baghdad). Eight buses were burned as a result of the explosion, over 100 people were killed, and dozens others were injured. About seventy Iranian Shiite pilgrims were among the dead (ISNA, November 24, 2016). The attack was widely condemned by Iran and by Western countries (White House website; German Foreign Ministry website; French Foreign Ministry website, November 24, 2016).
ISIS’s propaganda campaign
- This week, ISIS released a video allegedly documenting the devastation caused by American planes attacking Mosul’s eastern industrial zone. The video shows bodies which ISIS claims are “bodies of residents” (Haqq, November 26, 2016). The bodies shown in the video are of Islamic appearance and possibly have been ISIS operatives.
- On the other hand, ISIS continues to spread the false message that life in Mosul goes on as usual, by releasing photos documenting daily life in the city (Haqq, November 27, 2016).
US-led coalition activity
- According to Major General Rupert Jones, the most senior UK commander in the coalition forces, ISIS has so far lost 56% of the territory it once held in Iraq and 28% in Syria. He said a huge intelligence trove was expected from the fall of Mosul. He added that documents seized from Manbij in northern Syria in August 2016 had revealed plots against targets in Europe and elsewhere around the world. The documents also included information on money transfers. According to him, a unit was set up in Kuwait to process all the documents seized in Manbij (The Guardian, November 28, 2016).
Main developments in Syria
The campaign for Aleppo
- The Syrian forces took over the Masaken Hananou neighborhood, the biggest neighborhood in east Aleppo, which was the first to be taken over by the rebel organizations in 2012 (Khatwa, November 25, 2016). Subsequently, the Syrian Army took over the neighborhoods of Jabal Badru, Al-Indharat, Al-Sakhour, Al-Haydariyah and parts of the Al-Hulluk neighborhood (Syrian TV; Halab al-Youm, November 28, 2016). On November 28, 2016, a video was released showing Syrian Army soldiers patrolling the Al-Haydariyah neighborhood, with ruined buildings in the background (YouTube account of the Syrian Military Media, November 28, 2016).
- The Syrian regime continues to encourage residents and rebel operatives to leave east Aleppo. The Syrian forces dropped leaflets in the territories under rebel control in the east of the city. According to the leaflets, the regime will “welcome” those who will be willing to surrender their arms. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), following the battles, about 10,000 residents of northeastern Aleppo left their homes in the besieged area and went to the west Aleppo neighborhoods which are under the regime’s control. At least 6,000 of them reached the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud in the north of the city, which is under the regime’s influence (Middle East Eye, November 27, 2016). According to a UN report, 16,000 people fled east Aleppo (AFP, November 29, 2016). Some of the residents apparently confronted the operatives of the rebel organizations, who tried to prevent them from fleeing. According to the Russian Coordination Center in Hmeymim, 507 terrorist operatives who laid down their arms fled Aleppo.
- The Syrian forces recorded achievements also in the rural area north and northeast of Aleppo: Northeast of Aleppo, the Syrian Army took over 25 villages and farms previously held by the Free Syrian Army and ISIS in an area of over 120 km2. The Syrian Army also managed to advance in the area of the Infantry College, about 10 km northeast of Aleppo (Syrian TV, November 25, 2016).
The area west of the Euphrates River
- Operation Euphrates Shield continued in the Al-Bab region, with the rebel organizations operating in cooperation with a Turkish force. ISIS announced that its operatives halted an attempt by the Turkish Army and the Free Syrian Army to advance toward the town of Qabasin, about 8.5 km northeast of Al-Bab. The Turks announced that Turkish fighter planes attacked 14 ISIS posts in the region of Al-Bab (Anatolia, November 24, 2016).
- ISIS operatives continue their guerilla warfare against the forces advancing toward Al-Bab: On November 23, 2016, ISIS’s Aleppo Province announced that a suicide bomber codenamed Abu al-Baraa al-Manbaji detonated a car bomb at a staging zone of Turkish Army and Free Syrian Army forces northwest of Al-Bab (Haqq, November 24, 2016). On November 26, 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for destroying a Turkish tank by a missile west of Al-Bab (Aamaq, November 26, 2016).
Incident between an IDF force and ISIS operatives in the southern Golan Heights
- In the early morning hours of November 27, 2016, an incident occurred between an IDF force and a force of the Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigade, affiliated with ISIS. According to Israeli and Arab media, ISIS operatives opened fire at an IDF force setting an ambush. The operatives used a heavy machine gun placed on a van, several hundred kilometers away from the border. The IDF forces returned fire. The IDF had no casualties. This is the first incident of its kind between an IDF force and operatives affiliated with ISIS who control the southern Golan Heights. Up till now, those operatives refrained from engaging the IDF.
- During the incident, an Israeli aircraft attacked the vehicle and the operatives who fired from it. Syrian media reported that four operatives of the Khaled bin Al-Walid Army were killed as a result of the attack. In addition, an Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked an ISIS facility in the southern Syrian Golan Heights, in response to the shooting (IDF spokesman, November 27, 2016). The facility which was attacked had served UNDOF, the UN force maintaining the ceasefire between Israel and Syria. However, it has been deserted and nowadays it serves ISIS operatives for training. According to the IDF spokesman, ISIS operatives used that facility to establish their presence in the vicinity of the border and for attacking the IDF force (Israeli daily Haaretz, November 29, 2016).
- In the meantime, the Free Syrian Army and other rebel organizations launched a massive attack against the Khaled bin al-Walid Army in the southern Golan Heights. The attack started with a massive artillery bombardment, following which the rebel organizations started to advance toward the organization’s posts (Al-Ahed; Khatwa; The Local Coordination Committees, November 29, 2016). The situation on the ground is still unclear.
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
The Egyptian security forces announced that they had thwarted a series of terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. Among other things, they reported that they foiled an attempt to detonate two IEDs near the Sheikh Zuweid police station and that they had foiled an attempt to blow a car bomb at a checkpoint in south Sheikh Zuweid (Al-Watan, November 24, 2016). In a vast security operation held by the Egyptian security forces in north Sinai, sixty wanted operatives were detained (Veto portal, November 27, 2016). At the same time, ISIS operatives continued their terrorist attacks against the Egyptian security forces in north Sinai.
The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced the arrest of ten terrorist operatives who had been operating in the Suez area. The network planned to carry out attacks against government institutions and the Egyptian security forces. The squad was headed by Adel Hussein Ahmad Mahmoud, codenamed Abdel Rahman al-Hadi, who had been affiliated with ISIS operatives in north Sinai. Abdel Rahman al-Hadi underwent training in north Sinai and then was sent back to Suez to carry out terrorist attacks (Al-Masry al-Youm, November 27, 2016).
Egypt’s national security apparatus in Minya thwarted an ISIS plan to carry out attacks against government institutions, following the arrest of two ISIS operatives. Computers and mobile phones containing ISIS documents and correspondence between ISIS operatives and the organization leaders in Egypt and abroad were found in the possession of the arrested operatives. Plans for attacks against police personnel and major Egyptian institutions were also found (Al-Bawaba News, November 27, 2016).
The global jihad in other countries
- More than six months after the Libyan forces started the campaign to take over the city, ISIS operatives are still in control of parts of the Marine neighborhood, their last remaining stronghold in the city of Sirte. The Libyan forces reported that they had managed to take over additional 30 buildings in the neighborhood and an elementary school building. ISIS operatives carried out two suicide attacks against the Libyan forces (Facebook page of the campaign for Sirte, November 26, 2016). The deputy commander of the campaign’s operations room reported that ISIS operatives were still barricaded in about 100 buildings in the neighborhood (Facebook page of the campaign for Sirte, November 26, 2016; Al-Wasat, November 26 and 27, 2016).
Series of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan
- On November 21, 2016, ISIS’s Khorasan Province announced that an ISIS suicide bomber codenamed Hamza al-Khorasani had carried out a terrorist attack in a Shiite mosque in the capital Kabul. About 200 people were killed in the attack. The Taliban condemned the attack (Haqq, November 22, 2016).
- On November 25, 2016, it was reported that at least five people were killed and 27 others were wounded as a result of the explosion of two IEDs in the city of Jalalabad, about 115 km east of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Two security guards were among the fatalities, one of them had served as commander of the detention center of the district police headquarters. Three policemen were also injured by a third IED. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack (Aamaq, November 26, 2016).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
- A French Police spokesman reported that seven suspects planning to carry out terrorist attacks in crowded places in Paris were arrested in police anti-terror raids in the cities of Strasbourg and Marseilles. According to the French prosecutor, four French citizens and a Moroccan are among the arrested suspects. Documents found in their possession indicate a clear connection between them and ISIS. As part of their intelligence collection for the planned attacks, the suspects regularly checked the Internet for information about crowded public places such as Disneyland, Champs-Élysées, cafés, the Paris Police Headquarters, and metro stations. When arresting the suspects, the police forces found two rifles, an automatic gun, a submachine gun and propaganda material. It is suspected that at least part of the detainees received their instructions from an (ISIS) operative in Syria (Middle East Eye, November 25, 2016).
ISIS video calling to carry out attacks in the West
- ISIS continues its propaganda effort to encourage carrying out terrorist attacks in Western countries:
- ISIS’s Al-Raqqah Province released a French-language video with English and Arabic subtitles entitled “You must fight them, you who believe in the Tawhid.” The video calls on Muslims in France to carry out stabbing and IED attacks against the “infidels.” The video starts with photos from ISIS terrorist attacks throughout the world, with a French song playing in the background (Haqq, November 26, 2016). A number of foreign operatives appear on the video, including an operative calling himself Abu Suleiman al-Faransi (i.e., the Frenchman). He explains that the USA, Britain, and France no longer allow Muslims to emigrate to Syria and Iraq, and therefore they have to start jihad in their places of residence. Later in the video, he guides the viewers on how to kill with a knife. Another speaker in the video, codenamed Abu al-Nur the Syrian, explains and demonstrates how to make IEDs from materials available at home (Haqq, November 26, 2016).
- On November 27, 2016, ISIS’s Euphrates Province released a French-language video with Arabic subtitles, entitled “Follow in their footsteps.” The video displays ISIS-inspired or ISIS-directed terrorist attacks carried out in France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States, and encourages Muslims in Western countries to continue carrying out terrorist attacks. The speaker also calls on the “Soldiers of the Caliphate” in the Caucasus, in Russia and the UK not to linger in helping Islam. The video ends with a call to the Muslims to continue following in the footsteps of their brethren (Haqq, November 27, 2016).
- While underheavy pressure in Mosul and Al-Raqqah, ISIS is trying to initiate terrorist attacks throughout the world, encouraging its supporters to carry out attacks and even guiding them on how to do so (ISIS-inspired attacks). ISIS produced a number of videos and published a series of articles in its organs, intended to mobilize the operatives to the campaign and make them contribute to the war effort by carrying out terrorist attacks in their countries of residence, as well as guiding them on how to do so. According to ISIS, carrying out the attacks constitutes a contribution to ISIS’s overall war effort against its various enemies, and especially the West (the “Crusaders”).
- So far, ISIS has failed in its efforts to accompany the campaign on Mosul and Al-Raqqah with a wave of terrorist attacks abroad. A number of terrorist attacks, including showcase attacks, carried out on the initiative of ISIS operatives in Syria, have been thwarted in countries of Western Europe, in Turkey and the Balkans. So far, ISIS supporters in the various countries (“Soldiers of the Caliphate”) were also unable to start a massive wave of ISIS-inspired attacks. The appeal made in the video of the Euphrates Province to Muslims in Britain, “Why does it take you so long to offer support for your religion?” may indicate, in the ITIC's assessment, a disappointment of ISIS leadership in view of the lack of overseas terrorist attacks in support of the Islamic Caliphate following the attacks on Mosul. Thus, at this stage, there is a discrepancy between ISIS’s plans and intentions and its ability to execute them. However, it should be assumed that the efforts to carry out terrorist attacks abroad will continue, especially due to the mounting pressure on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria. The forthcoming Christmas and New Year’s Eve may serve as dates of choice for carrying out terrorist attacks due to the large number of crowded places and the repercussions they may generate.