The rising of Islamic State sleeper cells could become more common as the Kurdish-dominated SDF is diverted to the newly announced Turkish invasion of northern Syria.
In the past 24 hours, the Islamic State has conducted more than one suicide bombing against US-backed forces in Hajin, Syria. One Islamic State “martyr” blew himself up near the Hajin hospital, which became the scene of intense fighting earlier this week.
The US-led coalition, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), says it was forced to strike a hospital in Hajin, Syria because it was being used by Islamic State fighters. US-backed forces have been battling the Islamic State for control of Hajin for weeks.
The US-led coalition said in a statement that “much work remains to defeat” Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s organization in Iraq and Syria. The statement is at odds with the White House’s view that ISIS has been “almost completely destroyed.”
The US says that Russian forces struck and wounded several fighters belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The incident highlights the fact that despite “de-confliction,” the US and Russia are often not on the same page in Syria.
As US-backed forces seize the city of Raqqa, the Syrian regime moves to retake ground in Deir Ezzor, where the Islamic State has laid siege to Bashar al Assad’s forces since 2014. Assad’s regime has received a boost from Iranian-sponsored militias, as well as the Russians, during its recent offensive in eastern Syria.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have entered the Old City of Raqqa after the coalition blew two holes in a historic wall the Islamic State was using as a defensive fortification. The SDF’s fighters first approached the Old City in mid-June, but the wall and heavy fighting in a nearby neighborhood impeded their advance. Meanwhile, an Australian jihadi is featured in a new propaganda video recorded in Raqqa.
While the US military insists that the loss of Raqqah and Mosul will deal a “a decisive blow” to the Islamic State, the group still controls a significant amount of terrain in both Syria and Iraq.