Syrian soldiers stand guard in Tall Sultan town, Idlib province in February 2020. Photo: AFP

The IS group repeatedly ambushed Syrian army forces and executed a total of 14 soldiers in the past week.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) group said on March 31 that gunmen from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) rebels last week ambushed a unit of the 11th Army Division. Syrian government in the desert in the east of the country.

The group of Syrian soldiers was attacked while marching on March 26 from the town of Sukhna to the city of Deir Ezzor, the capital of the province of the same name. Rebels captured eight Syrian soldiers as prisoners of war and then executed them, including an officer with the rank of captain.

Also, last week, IS carried out another ambush against members of the Syrian Army’s 4th Division along the road between the town of Sukhna and the city of Palmyra in Homs province. The group then murdered six soldiers they took prisoner, including a lieutenant, according to SOHR.

Since the beginning of the year, about 200 soldiers and militiamen of the Syrian armed forces have been killed in IS attacks, ambushes and bombings in the desert, including in Deir Ezzor, Homs and Raqqa provinces.

At the same time, IS attacks left at least 37 civilians dead, while 24 IS members were killed by Syrian government troops and pro-Damascus forces.

Data collected by SOHR is based on private sources in Syria. The administration of President Bashar al-Assad and IS have not commented.

IS took control of large territories in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and declared the establishment of the so-called “Islamic State” in the areas occupied by the group.

IS lost its last territory in 2019, but remnants of the group continued to carry out many attacks, especially in the vast Badia desert stretching from the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, to the border with Iraq. The main targets of IS are pro-Syrian government forces and Kurdish fighters.

Members of the IS branch in Afghanistan in a video posted in 2020. Screenshot

Members of the IS branch in Afghanistan in a video posted in 2020. Screenshot

A January report by the United Nations (UN) estimated that the terrorist group had 3,000-5,000 members left in Syria and Iraq. The report also said that the number of IS attacks in Syria began to increase from November 2023, adding that the Badia desert is now used by IS as a “logistics and coordination center”.

In addition to Syria and Iraq, IS also targets targets in other countries. On March 22, four gunmen from Khorasan (ISIS-K), the IS branch in Afghanistan, conducted a bloody terrorist attack on the Crocus theater on the outskirts of the Russian capital, Moscow, killing at least 144 people and hundreds injured.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron said the terrorist group in the Crocus theater attack had targeted France a number of times but did not mention a specific time.

Experts say the terrorist attack in Russia shows that IS affiliates are quietly rising with the ambition to spread their tentacles around the world while the international community is focusing its attention on the fighting in Ukraine and the conflict in the Gaza Strip.