Syrian army reinforcement on its way to the Idlib front (Muraselon, August 18, 2018)
Rocket fire by the Syrian army at forces and defense lines of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham southeast of Idlib (Butulat Al-Jaysh Al-Suri, August 16, 2018)
Briefing of operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham before leaving to carry out the arrests.
Operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham inside a position overlooking the Kabani route in the Kurds’ Mountain (Ibaa, August 21, 2018)
Two ISIS suicide bombers, Haidar Fateh and Abu Bakr al-Khorasani, who attacked an Afghan Military Intelligence training center in Kabul, with the weapons used to carry out the attack (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 16, 2018)
Main events of the week
- The Syrian army’s offensive against the ISIS enclave in the As-Suwayda area continues. The army is encircling the ISIS operatives in their last stronghold in the Al-Safa area. Operatives who attempted to flee the area were either taken prisoner or killed.
- In the Idlib area, the Syrian army and the rebel organizations, the most prominent of which is the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, are preparing for the impending campaign. The Syrian army continues to reinforce the regions bordering on the Idlib area and simultaneously carries out local attacks and fires artillery at rebel targets. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham is fortifying its positions, making arrests and carrying out executions among its opponents in order to strengthen its control. In addition, its commanders visited the organization’s lines of defense against the Syrian army and the militias handled by Iran. At the political level, a meeting was held in Moscow this week between the defense ministers of Russia and Turkey, in which they discussed coordination in advance of the anticipated campaign in Idlib.
- In Afghanistan, fighting continues between ISIS and the Taliban. At the same time, ISIS carried out three deadly suicide bombing attacks in Kabul. The attacks were directed against an educational institution with hundreds of students, a security force base and an Afghan Intelligence training center, and a concentration of Afghan Intelligence and police forces.
Russian involvement in Syria
UAV attacks on the Russian base in Hmeymim continue
- The rebel organizations continue to launch UAVs at the Russian airbase in Hmeymim. According to Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov, five UAVs that were launched at Hmeymim were intercepted between August 13 and August 16, 2018. He also noted that during the past month, 45 UAVs carrying IEDs were intercepted by the airbase’s air defense system. Konashenkov made it clear that these were UAVs that made use of advanced technology, including navigation, control systems, and attack capabilities (Russian Defense Ministry website, August 16, 2018).
Syrian army’s attack against the ISIS enclave in As-Suwayda
Right: ISIS operatives captured by the Syrian army in the Al-Safa area (Twitter, August 18, 2018). Left: Syrian army armor force in ISIS’s enclave in As-Suwayda (SANA, August 19, 2018)
Syrian army continues to reinforce its troops
- The Syrian army continued to reinforce the various fronts bordering with the Idlib area. According to the Syrian media, convoys were observed moving on the routes between Hama and the Idlib rural area and on the routes leading to the Latakia rural area. Reinforcements also arrived at the Hama military airbase. It was reported that Turkish armor forces were dispatched to the border area between Turkey and the Idlib Province (Al-Arabiya Al-Hadath, August 19, 2018).
Syrian army artillery fire on targets of the rebel organizations
Arrests and executions by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham among its opponents
- Recently, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham (formerly the Al-Nusra Front) made a series of arrests among its opponents in the Idlib rural area. The arrests were made among rebel organization operatives supporting the reconciliation arrangements. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham released a video where an operative of the organization’s security office is heard saying: “We promise Bashar Assad and his lackeys, as well as Russia and Iran, that they will have no place and they will not set foot on this soil. This is the steadfast Idlib, the powerful Idlib…” (Ibaa, August 19, 2018).
- On August 17, 2018, it was reported that the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham had executed six operatives, members of ISIS networks operating in the Idlib area. They were accused of causing the death of at least 270 people in the rural areas of Idlib, Aleppo and Hama by detonating IEDs and car bombs, as well as by shooting, abduction and murder. Thus, the number of ISIS operatives executed after being arrested by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham has risen to 72 (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 17, 2018).
Right: Briefing of operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham before leaving to carry out the arrests. Left: Convoy of operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham on their way to carry out the arrests (Ibaa, August 20, 2018).
Right: Operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham during the arrest of one of the main supporters of the reconciliation arrangements. Left: One of the main supporters of the reconciliation arrangements lead by operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham after being arrested (Ibaa, August 20, 2018)
The commander of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham visits the defense lines
- Around August 21, 2018, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, commander of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, visited the organization’s defense lines northeast of Latakia (the area of the Kurds’ Mountain), where operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham are deployed (opposite the Syrian army). In addition, senior commanders of the organization visited the confrontation lines with the militias operated by Iran in the rural areas of Hama and Aleppo (Ibaa, August 21, 2018).
Right: Abu Mohammad Al-Julani (center, in black), commander of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, during a visit to the organization’s defense lines at the summit of the Kabani Mountain, the Kurds’ Mountain (northeast of Latakia). Left: Operative of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham reinforcing a position in the area of the Kurds’ Mountain (Ibaa, August 21, 2018)
- As part of the preparations for the imminent campaign on the Idlib area, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham fortifies areas under its control. On August 6, 2018, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham issued a leaflet offering paid work for operatives and residents who assist in fortifying “the liberated North” (i.e., the Idlib area) in order to curb any attack (Ibaa, August 16, 2018).
Leaflet of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham calling on operatives and residents to work for pay in fortifying the Idlib area (Ibaa, August 16, 2018)
Clashes between an Iranian force and a Syrian militia in Albukamal
- The internet website Furat Post (operating from Turkey) reported that recently there had been clashes in Albukamal between forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Qods Force on the one hand, and the National Defense (militia supporting the Syrian army) on the other. During the clashes, the commander of the National Defense was reportedly arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Thereafter, the Russian Military Police took control of passages connecting the two banks of the Euphrates River (Furat Post YouTube channel, August 19, 2018; interview with a Furat Post reporter on the Orient News channel, August 19, 2018). The background for these confrontations is so far unclear.
ISIS attack against International Coalition base in the Al-Omar oil field
- On the night of August 17-18, 2018, ISIS operatives attacked a base of the International Coalition in the Al-Omar oil field, about 17 km northeast of Al-Mayadeen. At the same base, there are also SDF operatives (Lebanon 24, August 18, 2018). In the first stage of the attack, ISIS blew up a car bomb to enable their advance. The attack was disrupted by Coalition aircraft, which carried out airstrikes killing several ISIS operatives. Afterwards, ISIS carried out two additional attacks simultaneously, and confronted fighters of the SDF forces (Deir ez-Zor 24, August 19, 2018).
ISIS threatens to hit oil fields in the Deir ez-Zor area
- On August 15, 2018, ISIS operatives distributed leaflets threatening to hit “anyone who steals oil”. In addition, the leaflets contained a threat to kill the security guards of the oil wells controlled by the SDF in the Deir ez-Zor Province. ISIS notes in the leaflets that those oil wells are assets of the Islamic State and the oil in these wells belongs to all Muslims (Deir ez-Zor24 Twitter account, August 20, 2018; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 19, 2018).
The leaflet distributed by ISIS’s Al-Khayr Province, in which it threatens to kill anyone who guards the oil wells and severely punish anyone who steals the oil (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, August 20, 2018).
Commander in the Fatemiyoun Brigade killed in Albukamal
- Jawad Akbari, commander in the Fatemiyoun Brigade, was killed by ISIS in mid-August in the Albukamal rural area (Indonesian Twitter account, August 16, 2018). Fatemiyoun is an Iranian-handled Shiite brigade whose fighters are Afghans. A force of this brigade, along with other Shiite forces, defend the Albukamal area, which is perceived as vital for the Iranians because the overland supply route between Iraq and Syria goes through it.
Main developments in Iraq
- Main attacks reported by ISIS: destruction of a vehicle transporting Federal Police personnel 37 km west of Kirkuk; the detonation of two IEDs about 9 km west of Baghdad (around 15 Shiites were killed and wounded); detonation of an IED against a bus north of Baghdad (10 operatives of the Popular Mobilization were killed and wounded); detonation of an IED against a concentration of Shiites in northeast Baghdad (seven killed and wounded); detonation of an IED against an Iraqi army vehicle about 90 km east of Rutba; blowing up a vehicle belonging to the Federal Police about 26 km south of Kirkuk; detonating two IEDs against vehicles of the Rapid Intervention Forces about 67 km north of Baqubah; detonation of an IED against a vehicle belonging to the Popular Mobilization about 34 km northeast of Baqubah; and the detonation of an IED against a vehicle of the Popular Mobilization about 45 km southwest of Kirkuk (five dead).
- Following are the main activities carried out by the Iraqi security forces against ISIS:
- Five ISIS operatives, including a commander with Uzbek citizenship, were killed and two others were arrested when Iraqi security forces raided a safe house of ISIS operatives near the Iraqi-Syrian border in the western Al-Anbar Province (Iraqi News Agency, August 17, 2018).
- In extensive searches carried out in the southern part of Lake Habbaniyah (some 22 km south of the city of Ramadi), Iraqi security forces found 60 IEDs (Iraqi News Agency, August 15, 2018).
- Iraqi security forces found five IEDs during a search of the oil pipeline in the vicinity of the Baiji refinery. The IEDs were detonated in a controlled manner (Iraqi News Agency, August 20, 2018).
Prevention of infiltration attempts by ISIS operatives from Syria to Iraq
- According to Iraqi reports, in July 2018, ISIS operatives attempted to infiltrate from Syria to Iraq more than 40 times. The attempts were made by groups of 3-10 operatives each. The Iraqi security forces reportedly thwarted all the attempts, causing heavy losses among the ISIS operatives. These infiltration attempts were carried out from the areas of Albukamal, the village of Hajin (about 25 km north of Albukamal) and the Al-Tanf Desert (about 220 km southwest of Albukamal). Some of the operatives intended to carry out attacks in Iraq and others attempted to find refuge there (Iraqi News Agency, August 18, 2018).
Iraqi airstrike against an ISIS target in Syria
- According to Iraqi media reports, Iraqi F-16s destroyed an ISIS operations room in Syrian territory. According to reports, the operations room was used by ISIS operatives to plan attacks to be carried out in Iraq within a matter of days, using explosive belts. Several ISIS operatives wearing explosive belts were killed in the attack (Al-Sumaria News, August 16, 2018).
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
- The Amaq News Agency reported that Egyptian Army soldiers had been killed and wounded in an explosion of an IED planted by ISIS operatives near Sheikh Zuweid (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 19, 2018). According to reports on Egyptian Twitter accounts, a lieutenant was killed on August 19, 2018, and four other soldiers were wounded in an attempt to attack Egyptian security forces at Al-Arish Airport using a booby-trapped vehicle.
The Sinai Tribal Union offered a reward for information leading to the capture of six senior commanders in ISIS’s Sinai Province
- Recently, the Sinai Tribal Union offered a reward of 2 million Egyptian pounds (about $112,000) for anyone providing information leading to the capture of each of six commanders in ISIS’s Sinai Province (a total of 12 million Egyptian pounds) (Twitter account of the Sinai Tribal Union, August 17, 2018). In the ITIC’s assessment, the photos that were published and the large sum may indicate that Egyptian security elements are behind the offer.
Right: Khairat Sami Muhammad Abd al-Hamid al-Subki, head of the security council of ISIS’s Sinai Province and the man responsible for the massacre at the Al-Rawda Mosque in Al-Arish on November 24, 2017. Left: Islam Wi’am Ahmad Hassan, head of the Morality Police (Hisba) and the “storming terrorists” of ISIS’s Sinai Province (@SinaiTribes Twitter account, August 17, 2018)
Right: Hanafi Jamal Mahmud, head of the Military Council of ISIS’s Sinai Province. Left: Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Hamdan Suleiman Barhoum, the man responsible for logistical assistance in ISIS’s Sinai Province (@SinaiTribes Twitter account, August 17, 2018)
Right: Karim Muhammad Hamdi Hamza, head of the Islamic law (Shari’a) headquarters of ISIS’s Sinai Province. Left: Muhammad Jamal Abd al-Rahim Abd al-Karim, head of the information headquarters of ISIS’s Sinai Province (@SinaiTribes Twitter account, August 17, 2018)
Jihadi activity in other countries
ISIS suicide bombing attack at an educational institution in Kabul
- On August 15, 2018, a terrorist posing as a student carried out a suicide bombing at a private educational institution in western Kabul. The terrorist detonated an IED strapped to his body among hundreds of students attending a special class in preparation for the university entrance exams (Afghanistan Times, August 15, 2018). According to Afghan government sources, 34 people were killed and 56 others were wounded (Khaama Press, August 16, 2018)
- ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the claim of responsibility, a suicide bomber named Abd al-Ra’uf al-Afghani blew himself up with his explosive vest at a Shiite educational center in Kabul (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 16, 2018). According to ISIS, more than 200 people were killed in the attack. This claim appears to be exaggerated.
Attack on an Afghan Intelligence training camp in Kabul
- On August 16, 2018, “terrorist operatives” attacked a security base and an Afghan Intelligence training center in Kabul. The attack was carried out from a nearby building under construction. The security guards at the base hid and refrained from exchanging fire with the assailants. Seven hours later, the incident ended with the death of two ISIS operatives (Reuters, August 16, 2018).
- ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the claim of responsibility, two suicide bombers attacked an Afghan Military Intelligence training camp in Kabul. After an exchange of fire lasting for five hours, the two terrorists detonated their explosive belts among the Afghan security forces. ISIS claims that the two terrorists killed and wounded 110 security operatives (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 16, 2018).
ISIS suicide bombing attack in Kabul against Afghan security operatives
- ISIS’s Khorasan Province announced that on August 14, 2018, a suicide bomber named Abu Bakr al-Turkmani blew himself up with his explosive vest among a concentration of Afghan Military Intelligence and Afghan Police forces in Kabul. As a result, ten Afghan security operatives were killed and wounded (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 16, 2018).
Abu Bakr al-Turkmani, who carried out the suicide bombing attack against a concentration of Afghan Military Intelligence and Afghan Police forces in Kabul (ISIS-affiliated website www.k1falh.ga, August 16, 2018)
 The Sinai Tribal Union is an umbrella framework that includes most of the Sinai tribes. The tribes in the Sinai Tribal Union fight against “terrorist operatives” in Sinai and help the Egyptian security forces restore security to the peninsula (Al-Arabiya, November 3, 2017). The chairman of the Sinai Tribal Union is Ibrahim al-Arjani (Al-Shaab Al-Jadid, August 20, 2018). ↑
 A total of 309 worshippers were killed and 124 wounded in the massacre. ↑