Islamic State releases photo report from Syria’s Hama province

The Islamic State has recently released a new photo set showing its forces engaging Syrian regime troops in the central province of Hama. The jihadist group previously had an administrative division for the Syrian province, but after defeats by both the regime and other rebel forces, it largely pulled out of Hama. However, in December, the Islamic State regained ground in the province and reestablished the division.

This new photo set deals with the fighting in the town of Sheikh al Hilal, which sits just northeast of the city of Al Salamiyah. The caption on the release states that the fighting was on the highway between Al Salamiyah and Raqqah, which is the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. Al Monitor has reported that the jihadist group tried to take control of the highway, which also branches out into Aleppo and is the regime’s main supply route into that province, but it was unsuccessful. However, the photo report details that the Islamic State was able to overrun a regime position on the highway.

The pictures detail this battle, as well as show the spoils taken from the regime. The Islamic State shows several PK machine guns, SVD sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s), grenades, and large amounts of ammunition. Other pictures show the beheading of at least five regime corpses, but are too graphic to be shown here. This battle and subsequent photo report comes just days after the Islamic State released a video from Hama in which more than six regime soldiers were beheaded. The video, entitled “Strike their Necks”, detailed a child handing the fighters the execution knives before committing the murders. The video also showed other younger fighters, but they did not do the beheadings.

This is not the first time the Islamic State has used children in execution videos. In January, the group used a Kazakh child to execute two alleged Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) spies. The young boy was previously featured in an Islamic State video highlighting a training camp for Kazakh recruits and their children in Raqqah. More recently, the jihadist group used a French child to execute an alleged Israeli spy. In the most recent issue of its online English-language magazine Dabiq, the Islamic State justified its use of child executioners on the basis of Islamic history.

The Islamic State runs many training camps for children in Syria and Iraq. The group has a camp for children in Damascus, many camps in Raqqah and Mosul, and at least one for children in Tal Afar. The jihadist group utilizes these camps to radicalize and indoctrinate children into its violent ideology. (For more on these camps and many others in Iraq and Syria, see the map of jihadist training camps made by The Long War Journal here.)

Also in Hama, The New York Times has reported that the Islamic State was able to attack and capture the village of Maboujeh in recent days. Maboujeh sits just southeast of Sheikh Hilal and is close to Al Salamiyah. The Times quotes a resident of the village as saying that “48 bodies were buried” in the town. This offensive comes as the Islamic State attacked the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. The jihadist group was able to seize portions of the Yarmouk camp away from Palestinian factions on Apr. 1. However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that the Aknaf Bayt al Maqdis group, which is loyal to Hamas, was able to drive the Islamic State out of the areas it controls. SOHR reported today that the Islamic State is launching a new offensive on the camp but is being met with stiff resistance from Aknaf Bayt al Maqdis “backed by Islamic factions.” “Islamic factions” usually denotes groups belonging to the Islamic Front, which is allied to al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front. Jaish al Islam, the Islamic Front faction operating in Damascus, released a statement on Twitter saying that they are assisting Aknaf in its fight against the Islamic State.

Photos released by the Islamic State showing the battle at Sheikh Hilal:

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Photos showing children used in the execution video from Hama:




Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • Dennis Weadock says:

    It is definitely mind boggling the amount of different militias, religious groups, terrorists organizations, proxy armies and standing armies that are involved stretching from western and middle Africa to the kashmiri front,down through the Pakistan India border. Maybe we should just wait to see who’s left standing and deal with them . Israel is and will always be our best ally,now alongside the great government of Egypt.

  • rtloder says:

    Christian militias, are not pulling their weight , same in the South Muslim locals are running and hiding, Assad knows this and is not going to bear down too heavily on draining regions that do come up to scratch, that is the right policy, where are the Armenians for example, haven’t they ever been told the meaning of duty.

  • Tom says:

    The Tank shows the USAF and USN as usual are overstating their kills, and that the Air Campaign is largely ineffective, as usual.

    Artillery is and will remain the king of the battlefield. Unless directly hit, a tank will shrug off a bomb going off nearby it, though the crew will be fatally vacuumed out if the hatch was open. 30mm rounds bounce off even the top armor of Tanks, not enough angle of attack.

    We are also seeing that IS attritional strategy is working like the NVA’s and Novorussians. Grab the few critical spots, then a string of outliers you can afford to lose and let them serve to soak up enemy counter-attacks and resources while you counter-punch elsewhere and close the gap.

    Note this is not the best map and is not meant to be definitive, it lacks roads and what not, so overlay it with Wikimapia.

    Starting at Jarabulus, IS must holds are Jarabulus, Manbij, Sarrin, Tishrin Dam, Tabqa Dam, Ar-Raqqah (most important as it was a historical Caliphate Capital), and Tall Abyad. With these, they pretty much control entrance to their territories they claim and can raise forces in sufficient quantities to negate their losses and grow their Army larger.

    Everything else they can give up at need and indeed in early 2014 they were fighting for their life in Raqqah and abandoned all of Lataika and Idlib province, half of Aleppo, and 2/3rds of Deir Ezzour. After securing Raqqah they then expanded into Iraq and today they still hold 70% of what they took.

    Key differences between IS and Novorussia forces:

    IS is shoestringing its conquests together and most of its heavy equipment is taken as spoils of war or cottage built.

    Novorussia is being given top rate Russian military equipment with Russian Military license plates still on them.

    IS is self-funded

    Novorussia is blatantly paid directly by Moscow

    IS has no real defence against fixed-wing aircraft, so long pilots don’t stupidly fly low like the Jordanian pilot, they’ll be fine. Helicopters are another matter.

    Novorussia has effectively shot down the entire Ukrainian Airforce

    Other key IS strengths:

    They have an operationally organized military. Tactical units are expendable so long as the overall operational goals are met, but if they conclude an operational goal can’t be met, they’ll pull back and reassess. IS is seeking to win the war, not battles, and so long as they have an army, they have a state.

    They constantly spend the majority of their budget (98%) on social programs and reconstruction which in turn means more refugees settle in their areas because there is stable if harsh order and social services.

    YPG can’t accomplish that, so despite holding Kobane, the majority of their budget goes to its military, most of the Canton’s residents have fled and are not returning because their homes are destroyed and YPG can’t reconstruct them as IS destroyed or looted all their construction equipment. YPG lost 4,000 killed despite their propaganda which most people uncritically accept at face value, and FSA is spearheading their stalled counter-offensive which IS is now counter-attacking into. Unlike YPG, IS knows that if people don’t have homes or somewhat functioning services their military is ultimately doomed as they can’t recruit enough soldiers and more importantly the supporting troops that keep their heavy equipment working. And outside of the Assad regime, IS supplies the most power for civilian use.

    YPG could in theory provide the power its people need, but haven’t allocated the resources and wastes money antagonizing Turkey with PKK militancy. In addition YPG has squandered much of its military in human wave assaults, backstabbing everyone, getting slapped back, and then crying for help later. Nor is YPG able to make good its losses without recruiting children by force. IS by contrast is mostly volunteers and kids can’t fight unless their mothers say its okay, which is not much better, but it is what it is.

    As for FSA:

    What FSA? Whoever isn’t wholly owned by JAN and IF have fled the country.

    Like IS, JAN is fighting for a Caliphate as well, just less dickish about it.

  • Skeuomorph says:

    In what sense is Israel our best ally and not just an arbitrary country we chose to side with?

  • The hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.

  • Using children to assist in the decapitation of prisoners. Is there anybody out there who still doubts the existence of evil in this world?

  • Bernard says:

    Tom, do you have a site or blog? If not, you should get one.

  • Lamia says:

    “They constantly spend the majority of their budget (98%) on social programs and reconstruction which in turn means more refugees settle in their areas because there is stable if harsh order and social services.”

    Where did you get this, ahem, ‘favourable’ impression of ISIS spending and rule from? John Cantlie?

  • mike merlo says:

    @Tom where did you get the “98%” number from?

  • JoeO says:

    Because they need the US more than the US needs them.

  • Mark says:

    You would not want to go to his blog. You would get infected.

    If you have a spare computer to surf jihadi websites, I say go for it.

  • Mark says:

    @ Merlo

    Tom is not a native English speaker. He pulled the # from his nether regions.

  • Jenda says:

    The strategy of “Maybe we should just wait to see who’s left standing and deal with them.” worked all right in early 20th century Iberia, but not in Germany, Russia, or China, where Leninists of various stripes seized power and decided to work out their hangups upon others, including us.
    Israel is our ally because, like Taiwan, it’s society is deeply similar to ours and its cultural affinities are as well. Further, because everyone in the region recognizes this, whenever we distance ourselves from Tel Aviv, it only seems to weaken our appeal as an ally for others in the region, even if they loather Tel Aviv. Henry Kissinger, hardly a great fan of Israel, came to recognize this during his stellar tenure as Secretary of State, which did so very much to rehabilitate the foreign policy school of realism, which explicitly doesn’t care about cultural, moral, and religious affinities.


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