Damascus – After four days of heavy clashes with Syrian army forces, militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Friday captured strategic areas northeast of Damascus.
ISIS seized control of three military bases in the Qalamoun region northeast of the Syrian capital, after clashes with pro-regime’s army troops.
“The militant group is now in control of three major army bases in the Qalamoun, including headquarters of the Brigade 559, the Chemical Brigade and al-Mahjoura base,” local media activist Wassim Doghmoush told ARA News.
Dozens of casualties were reported on both sides.
According to the ISIS-linked Amaq Agency, at least 30 Syrian soldiers were killed in the Qalamoun clashes.
“Islamic State jihadis launched the operation from three directions, using heavy artillery and mortar fire, forcing the army to evacuate the three bases,” Doghmoush said.
Friday’s progress may enable ISIS to storm the Syrian army’s S-Airbase in the Qalamoun region.
Invading Damascus, Imposing Sharia Law
In October, the Islamic State threatened to invade Damascus and apply its puritanical interpretation of Sharia law throughout the capital. ISIS said that their invasion was imminent and vowed to strike at Syrian security forces and the armed opposition.
“Fighters of the Caliphate are preparing to enter the heart of al-Sham [Damascus],” the extremist group said in a statement.
ISIS has been in control of a residential block in southern Damascus since it drove out al-Qaeda-splinter group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and allied rebel factions, in April 2015. Jahbat Fateh al-Sham was previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra.
Al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood is believed to be the Islamic State’s primary staging area. Their militants also control most of the nearby Yarmouk and Tadamun districts.
ISIS has accused the rebel groups in Damascus of working on behalf of Assad’s government and being apostates. “The time has come for the Caliphate’s fighters to take al-Sham [Damascus] from the infidels and their mercenaries,” the extremist group said.
Syrian journalist Mustafa Abde told ARA News that ISIS would likely try to open new fronts in southern Syria to direct attention from northern Iraq, where the group is hemorrhaging.
Abde argued that: “This announcement comes after the group started to lose ground in Iraq amid deteriorating morale among its militants. ISIS is seeking new so-called victories to regain its reputation as a strong organization.”
Reporting by: Laila Majadalawi and Sadruddin Kino | Source: ARA News
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