Terrorism

ISIS affiliate traps civilians in Yarmouk basin

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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Children recruited by ISIS affiliate  Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid are seen in western rural Daraa. [Photo courtesy of Musab Assaf]

"Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) affiliate Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid has begun using civilians as human shields in the areas under its control in the Yarmouk basin area of southern Syria, an activist said.

As the Syrian regime and allied militias approach the boundaries of the area it controls, it has even gone so far as to declare the territory it holds "Wilayat al-Yarmouk" -- a province of ISIS’s so-called Islamic state.

As this move has increased the likelihood of an all-out attack on it, Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid has begun to prevent civilians from leaving the areas it controls in Yarmouk basin, local activist Musab Assaf told Diyaruna.

The exit ban decision was issued and put into effect on Tuesday night (July 10th), he said, prompted by the flight of 10,000 civilians for rural Quneitra.

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A Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid element takes part in a previous battle in rural Daraa. [Photo courtesy of Musab Assaf]

The areas Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid controls include more than 15 towns and villages and dozens of small farms on the border with Jordan, notably the towns of Sahm al-Golan, al-Shabraq and Adawan.

Much of the southern province of Daraa had been quiet since Friday, when a ceasefire deal between the opposition and the Russian-backed regime ended a nearly three-week government assault.

But Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid is not included in that deal.

Surge in violence

The group on Tuesday launched a surprise suicide attack targeting regime and opposition forces in the town of Zaizoun that is adjacent to the areas it controls in west Daraa, killing at least 14 and wounding many others.

Following the attack, Assaf said, some Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters who were in the vicinity helped the regime army's wounded and transported them to their field hospitals, "which left a positive impression in the region", he noted.

Overnight into Thursday, Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid seized the village of Hayt near the Jordanian border from opposition fighters who had agreed to a regime takeover, AFP reported.

"After violent clashes, Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid took control of Hayt despite Russian and regime airstrikes against them," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Fighting since Wednesday has left 16 opposition fighters and 12 extremists dead including two suicide bombers, he said.

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