ISIS continues activity continues in Syrian desert; Iraqi forces launch military operation to combat ISIS cells north of Baghdad

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria / BAGHDAD – The Islamic State (ISIS) launched a new attack on the locations of the Syrian regime forces in the Syrian Desert (Badia). Exchanges of small arms fire and mutual shelling rung out in the empty desert, Russian warplanes flying overhead, responding with intensive raids on ISIS positions.

The Al-Mazare’ area is the largest gathering of Iranian-backed militias in the region and is located close to the location of the confrontation.

Iranian forces have been supporting the Syrian regime forces in the Badia for more than two years, without any success against ISIS attacks.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the casualties since March 2019 have reached at least 570 deaths among Syrian regime forces and its allies, including two Russians and at least 127 Iranian militias. The casualties occurred during bombings and ambushes across the Badia near Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Homs, and As-Suwayda. ISIS casualties during the same period are estimated to be around 212.

In related news, the Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation north of the capital Baghdad on Thursday in pursuit of ISIS cells. The Baghdad Operations Command, Special Forces Brigade / Army Staff Command, the 37th Infantry Division, the Rapid Response Brigade, and the Federal Police Task Force all took part in the operation with support provided by the Iraqi Air Force.

Iraqi forces also found a new mass grave in the area of Al-Humaydat, west of Mosul, three years after the liberation of the city from ISIS. The grave contained the remains of corpses buried in a trench hundreds of meters long.

Iraqi officials believe that the majority of the remains of those bodies belonged to Shiite prisoners held in Badoush prison who were executed by ISIS. The number of bodies in grave is estimated to be around 600.

The total number of people in the prison at the time of the executions is assumed to be 1,500. Sunni prisoners were separated from the Shiite prisoners who were taken to unknown locations in the desert, according to a Human Rights Watch report.