Map: IS Gains Against Government Forces on 28-29 September

29 Sep - Eastern Syria Map.png

On 28 September 2017, IS forces in eastern Syria launched the “Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani offensive“. The offensive is aimed broadly at government forces throughout the governorates of Deir al-Zour and Homs. The locations of IS attacks have been geographically disparate and its not clear that there is a set objective other than capturing as many government positions as possible.

Two days in, the offensive has become the most successful offensive operation launched by IS since their recapture of Tadmur in December 2016.

The offensive began on 28 September with a broad attack from the east on the Sukhna–Deir al-Zour highway. IS captured the small villages of Kabajib and al-Shoula, near Deir al-Zour city. A separate group of IS fighters captured the two small hamlets of Albu Amr and al-Jabaylia, located several kilometers to the southeast of the Deir al-Zour Airbase. IS media, in what is almost certainly a greatly exaggerated claim, reported the death of 65 Syrian and Russian soldiers, the destruction of four tanks, and the capture of two Russian soldiers during these clashes. The Russians denied the claim of captured Russian soldiers.

Further south, IS advanced near al-Sukhna and claimed the capture of Jabal Tantur, which overlooks the town from the west. IS media claimed as many as 100 Syrian soldiers were killed near al-Sukhna.

IS opened 29 September with an assault on the T-3 pumping station, which is located to the south of al-Sukhna. IS briefly captured the station, but was later pushed back by government forces. IS claimed to have killed 34 government soldiers during the encounter. The only point in the T-3 area to be successfully secured by IS was the al-Hayl gas field.

The largest advance came to the east of al-Sukhna. While an attack on the eastern perimeter of the city was repelled, IS successfully captured a large area located 30 kilometers to the northeast of al-Sukhna. The points captured include the al-Baghala junction, the village of al-Qalia, and the Umayyad castle known as Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi. One unverifiable source claimed IS also captured the Najib gas field. In spite of several spurious social media reports to the contrary, IS hasn’t yet managed to capture the town of al-Sukhna itself. However, IS is reported to control critical positions on both sides of the town. If IS continues to press forward and a government counteroffensive does not materialize, the town may fall sometime over the next few days.

Other, smaller attacks took place across Deir al-Zour and Homs on the 29th. One occurred near the village of Humayma, a government-held hamlet located 100 kilometers southeast of al-Sukhna on the road to T-2 pumping station. Another reportedly occurred within the city of Deir al-Zour itself. No territorial changes are known to have come of any of these smaller attacks.

The most surprising attack, though, came in al-Qaryatayn. al-Qaryatayn was captured by government forces most recently in April 2016. It is located 70 kilometers from the nearest IS-held villages and 150 kilometers from IS’ primary zone of operations. An IS sleeper cell, reportedly based in the village of Hawarin, managed to capture the town due to an absence of soldiers. The stunning victory was short-lived, though, as government forces immediately entered the town and routed IS.

The attack on al-Qaryatayn is one of three behind-the-lines IS attacks during the past week in areas thought to be secure. Previously:

  • On 26 September, IS raided eastern districts of Raqqa thought to be fully secure. At least 28 SDF were killed.
  • On 27 September, IS forces managed to infiltrate the city of Ramadi, Iraq and were able to capture and hold several districts in the southwestern outskirts of the city before withdrawing.

This string of infiltration attacks is a signal that IS leaders have come to terms with the fact that their “caliphate” will soon cease to exist, and, in accordance, are developing guerilla strategies in preparation for the day after the last IS-held settlement falls.

In addition to the reports of IS gains, reports of successful government counteroffensives have popped up on social media; however, the majority of claims are yet unconfirmed. While many sources (1, 2, 3, 4) reported that government forces recaptured lost positions on the Sukhna–Deir al-Zour highway, others denied such claims. The only thing that is confirmed is that government forces recaptured the al-Shoula oil fields. There is currently no hard evidence that any other points on the Sukhna–Deir al-Zour highway have been recaptured, and it is probable that IS still controls the road along with the villages of Kabajib and al-Shoula. Previous claims (made on the 28th) of al-Shoula’s recapture turned out to be false; it would not at all be surprising if the current claims are false as well.

Another advance was reported near the Deir al-Zour Airbase, where IS captured the villages of Albu Amr and al-Jabayliya on the 28th. One report indicated the Tiger Forces had “fire control” over Albu Amr while another report stated that the Army (without specifying a particular unit) had captured half of said village. If the Tigers are indeed advancing in that area, this, combined with a statement made by Ahmed Abdullah al-Omar, indicates that the Tigers’ next advance will likely be along the west bank of the Euphrates toward the IS capital of al-Mayadin.

Although government forces will inevitably recapture the lost areas like they did Tadmur, the last two days have shown that IS can still be effective and resilient on the battlefield. The attack on al-Qaryatayn in particular shows what kind of attacks may occur in the future once IS becomes a guerilla-only force.

A full-size version of the above map, which was made using data from Google Maps, can be found here. Please note: the map is only a rough estimate of control as definitive reports have been scarce and the status of many of the hills and hamlets that dot the desert landscape is not known.

Advertisements

Complete List of 91+ Bombings in Homs Since 2012

Since 2012, a deadly string of bombings in the city of Homs has claimed the lives of at least 470 people – mostly civilians – and has injured at least 1,700. These attacks have come in the form of car bombs, small IEDs, and suicide bombings. Though such attacks have occurred in other Syrian cities, Homs stands out due to the sheer number of attacks, the fact that most have targeted civilians rather than political or military installations, and the fact the frequency of attacks has not abated since 2013, as in other cities, but, rather, has increased.

Until now, no comprehensive effort had been made by anyone to catalogue these attacks. Extensive research on our part has revealed the total number of bombings to be at least 91; these bombings have occurred as part of at least 67 separate incidents. An additional five incidents are disputed or lack corroboration. Below is a full list of attacks in chronological order, including dates, locations, casualty information, any claims of responsibility, and sources. Attacks are assumed to be against civilians unless otherwise noted.

Update (Dec. 2017): The total number of attacks has now reached at least 93.

Date Location Casualties Group Notes Source(s)
2/12/12 Hamra 15 killed
24 injured
http://bit.ly/2o5xGxY
7/12/12 Insha’at 0 killed
27 injured
http://bit.ly/2nSpv7f
http://bit.ly/2oQBxPc
13/2/13 Hamra 1 killed http://bit.ly/2p9l3Bp
http://bit.ly/2oIQVAn
28/2/13 Akrama 4 killed
15 injured
http://bit.ly/2oQSJnS
http://bit.ly/2oIZBGY
21/3/13 Wadi al-Dahab 2 killed
20+ injured
http://bit.ly/2nltKfp
4/4/13 al-Wa’er 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2oMxLsU
http://bit.ly/2oa3Dqt
http://bit.ly/2nSoV9C
12/4/13 al-Wa’er 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2oQGqIf
http://bit.ly/2oQOtF4
http://bit.ly/2oIR3jr
27/5/13 al-Wa’er 6 killed
40 injured
http://bit.ly/2nlD0QG
http://bit.ly/2o5oPMC
http://bit.ly/2p9plsm
8/6/13 Nuzha 7 killed
10 injured
http://bit.ly/2nltpcI
http://bit.ly/2oglBYM
8/7/13 Akrama (x2) 6 killed
40 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2o5C1kO
http://bit.ly/2nLcUSg
http://bit.ly/2o5iFMt
http://bit.ly/2oLCVpr
18/7/13 al-Wa’er 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2nSpPCQ
http://bit.ly/2oQAzCR
http://bit.ly/2o5pX2I
24/10/13 Nuzha 3 killed
40 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oLCVpr
http://bit.ly/2oLMPXZ
http://bit.ly/2nKxXEI
27/2/14 Akrama 7 killed
20 injured
http://bit.ly/2njLTdy
http://bit.ly/2oQbnfN
6/3/14 al-Arman 13 killed
30 injured
http://bit.ly/2o4swSO
http://bit.ly/2p8jMKO
http://bit.ly/2njHoiR
17/3/14 Zahra 6 killed
20 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2p8jrrw
http://bit.ly/2oQ1fn4
http://bit.ly/2nKnFEv
http://bit.ly/2og02rj
27/3/14 al-Arman 1 killed
11 injured
http://bit.ly/2nk43M3
http://bit.ly/2oHKUUP
http://bit.ly/2nRtalJ
9/4/14 Karm al-Luz 25 killed
107 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oHQpmk
http://bit.ly/2o4wOcZ
14/4/14 Akrama 4 killed
30 injured
http://bit.ly/2oLvkXS
http://bit.ly/2p8iEXl
18/4/14 Akrama 14 killed
50 injured
http://bit.ly/2o4lSvR
http://bbc.in/1f49XSr
http://bit.ly/2oLvQF0
29/4/14 Abbasiya (x2) 40-55 killed
116-130 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oLCVpr
http://bit.ly/2ofTOHZ
http://bit.ly/2nKgb4A
25/5/14 Refinery Bridge
Zahra
13 killed
40 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oHKD44
http://bit.ly/2o4sDOc
http://bit.ly/2oPMqAS
http://bit.ly/2o9cpVw
12/6/14 Wadi al-Dahab 9-18 killed
40-60 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://on.wsj.com/2p8ljQW
http://bit.ly/2p8A4Du
19/6/14 Akrama 6 killed
40 injured
http://bit.ly/2nRuq8o
24/6/14 Wadi al-Dahab 1 killed
23 injured
http://bit.ly/2ofNFLS
http://bit.ly/2o9xv6d
27/7/14 al-Arman 7 killed
21 injured
http://bit.ly/2nRA8ag
http://bit.ly/2oLttSE
30/7/14 Wadi al-Dahab 2 killed
30 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oHKJc8
http://bit.ly/2p8yrW8
http://bit.ly/2oLD4Jg
1/10/14 Akrama (x2) 53+ killed
144 injured
Targeted the al-Makhmouzi school. At least 48 of the dead were schoolchildren http://bit.ly/2oLPsZI
http://bit.ly/2njLGqO
http://bit.ly/2oPS5qM
http://bit.ly/2p8qd0r
29/10/14 Zahra 12 killed
30 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2p8u2CJ
http://bit.ly/2p8zbdS
6/12/14 Zahra No corroboration http://bit.ly/2oLuKJn
21/1/15 Akrama 7 killed
71 injured
http://bit.ly/2oLCz21
http://bit.ly/2oLs3HO
http://t.co/GuH9CIDHVk
26/3/15 Southern Entrance Jabhat al-Nusra Targeted a military warehouse http://bit.ly/2p8BP3c
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
10/4/15 al-Arman 2 killed
12 injured
IS https://t.co/LrCYYj9NwQ
http://bit.ly/2o9o4nh
http://bit.ly/2oPJTqm
30/4/15 Karm al-Luz 0 killed
0 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2nKcYlk
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
6/5/15 Nuzha Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2oHIUvJ
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
http://bit.ly/2o4ynHS
12/5/15 Wadi al-Dahab
Zahra
4 killed
28 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2nRx3He
http://bit.ly/2oHJsBJ
http://bit.ly/2nRxwJJ
18/5/15 Zahra 0 killed
0 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra No corroboration http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
3/6/15 Zahra 0 killed
0 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2o9e9y9
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
14/6/15 Akrama 0 killed
10 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2p8tYTt
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
http://bit.ly/2oHCg8P
14/6/15 Karm al-Luz 1 killed
26 injured
http://bit.ly/2p8tYTt
http://bit.ly/2o4wxXu
http://bit.ly/2o4dxIH
30/6/15 Akrama
Nuzha
0 killed
4 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2ofSmFz
http://bit.ly/2nRa2o5
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
7/7/15 Akrama 0 killed
1 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2o9eX68
http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
12/7/15 Unknown (x2) Jabhat al-Nusra Allegedly targeted 2 gov. security buildings. No corroboration http://bit.ly/2p8m0Kb
26/8/15 Insha’at 5-6 killed
30-37 injured
Disputed; some claim an IED; others (including SANA) report rocket fire was to blame http://bit.ly/2oHtOq2
http://bit.ly/2nRs4WY
http://t.co/SLRmrbvYF0
29/8/15 Zahra 4 killed
20 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2njG53M
http://bit.ly/2p8lCen
16/9/15 Zahra 0 killed
8 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2nR8U3P
http://bit.ly/2njAkDf
18/9/15 Wadi al-Dahab (x2) 2 killed
11 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2o9c6du
http://bit.ly/2oLyPgR
http://t.co/SpfRlaOq2d
http://bit.ly/2oPWzNW
20/9/15 Zahra 1 killed
3 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra Targeted a car carrying SAA http://bit.ly/2njFnUa
http://bit.ly/2og9FpR
http://bit.ly/2o4dxYQ
22/9/15 Zahra 1 killed
12 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2o4ielH
http://bit.ly/2oPPBJ1
23/9/15 Akrama 1 killed
8 injured
http://bit.ly/2p8792k
4/10/15 Zahra 1 killed
21 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2o4mCkB
http://bit.ly/2p8pP1S
10/10/15 Wadi al-Dahab 4 killed Ahrar al-Sham Assassination of Col. Hassan Mahmoud Issa http://bit.ly/2o98JTM
http://bit.ly/2ofRq48
http://t.co/cAISxYtVe9
20/10/15 Hamra 0 killed
4 injured
http://bit.ly/2oLCEm0
http://bit.ly/2oPSZDr
8/11/15 Akrama (x2)
Insha’at
Wadi al-Dahab
1 killed
19 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra Insha’at attack was on a Ba’ath party HQ; the rest were on civilians http://bit.ly/2o4qz92
http://bit.ly/2oHCHjv
http://bit.ly/2ofQPiH
12/12/15 Zahra 16-20 killed
54-140 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2o4dJrk
http://dailym.ai/2nKqLbx
http://bit.ly/2ofY0aO
17/12/15 Akrama Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2nRlVKB
http://bit.ly/2nRfPd3
http://bit.ly/2o9bk06
18/12/15 Bab al-Sabaa Jabhat al-Nusra No corroboration http://bit.ly/2nRfPd3
http://bit.ly/2o9bk06
28/12/15 Zahra 32 killed
90 injured
IS http://reut.rs/1mdWxhd
http://bit.ly/2nRjffV
2/1/16 Akrama 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2p88hTI
http://bit.ly/2o4oBpa
http://bit.ly/2nRiJ1t
15/1/16 al-Arman 0 killed
7 injured
http://bit.ly/2oHwQKJ
http://ow.ly/nVfw30aEpgh
22/1/16 Karm al-Luz
Wadi al-Dahab
0 killed
14 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2nR7tSS
http://bit.ly/2njzBls
26/1/16 Zahra (x2) 22-26 killed
100 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2nRm28I
http://bit.ly/2ofQi02
http://ab.co/1PPeKbN
http://bit.ly/2nQVS6o
27/1/16 Hamra 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2nK8ifq
http://bit.ly/2oPJVhU
21/2/16 Zahra (x2) 57 killed
100 injured
IS http://ab.co/1PPeKbN
http://bit.ly/2nKlxNd
http://bit.ly/2oPV3vn
31/3/16 Akrama (x2-3)
Karm al-Luz
Wadi al-Dahab
0 killed
6 injured
Jabhat al-Nusra http://bit.ly/2nK5kHE
http://bit.ly/2oLtBBI
http://bit.ly/2p8586h
http://bit.ly/2oLk51k
http://bit.ly/2nKl9Op
5/9/16 Zahra 4 killed
10 injured
IS Targeted gov. checkpoint https://t.co/5QpU6r5AxT
http://bit.ly/2nKnsB8
26/11/16 Wadi al-Dahab 0 killed
0 injured
http://bit.ly/2njvwO9
http://bit.ly/2ofR7X3
15/12/16 Zahra 4-8 killed IS Targeted gov. field hospital http://bit.ly/2p86xJY
https://t.co/sJD8yNPQ9t
9/2/17 Zahra 3 killed
16 injured
http://bit.ly/2njBcHG
25/2/17 Ghouta & Mahatta (x5) 40-42 killed
50 injured
Tahrir al-Sham Targeted 2 major gov. security HQs http://bit.ly/2p8pBaO
http://bit.ly/2njDN4H
http://bit.ly/2o3QxcQ
14/3/17 Wadi al-Dahab 1 killed
2 injured
https://t.co/seavsRrosW
29/3/17 Zahra 5 killed
7 injured
http://ht.ly/yAaU50avdmj
http://bit.ly/2oHiIBa
23/5/17 Zahra 4 killed
16-32 injured
IS http://bit.ly/2qQU7ue
http://bit.ly/2nwmQV9
http://bit.ly/2AbylqQ
5/12/17 Akrama 8 killed
18 injured
IS IS claimed the attack was against soldiers, but most victims were civilians http://bit.ly/2AxyqnT
http://bit.ly/2kowacr
http://bit.ly/2jZch7N
http://bit.ly/2BL0kdX
http://bit.ly/2jYVYIa

Something that’s important to note is that this chart does not include incidents of artillery fire or airstrikes. The attack has to have occurred outside of an active front line, and there has to have been no apparent military objective (i.e. capturing ground).

This type of attack first occurred in Homs in December 2012, and has been used primarily or solely by anti-government groups; Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS) in particular have claimed many of the attacks. As a consequence, almost all of the incidents listed above occurred in government-controlled areas, mostly Alawi-majority districts such as Akrama, Karm al-Luz, Nuzha, Wadi al-Dahab, and Zahra. Sunni-majority districts with large concentrations of government supporters, including Hamra and Insha’at, have also been hit, albeit less frequently. The attacks have come with a variety of goals, including assassinations and elimination of military or political installations, but many of them – including the most deadly – have been aimed at generating the largest possible massacre of civilians.

The single deadliest incident was a double bombing in Zahra on 21 February 2016. It killed at least 57 people, mostly civilians. It was claimed by IS. Another mass-casualty incident was the 29 April 2014 double bombing of the crowded al-Abbasiya circle near Zahra, which occurred while negotiations were ongoing for the evacuation of rebel fighters from Old Homs. At least 40 people were killed, mostly civilians. Perhaps the most infamous incident was the double suicide bombing of the al-Makhmouzi elementary school in Akrama on 1 October 2014. At least 48 schoolchildren were killed. While the school bombing has gone unclaimed, the Abbasiya bombing was claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra the next day.

Unlike IS supporters who accept that endorsing attacks on civilians is a prerequisite of supporting IS, many online supporters of Nusra – now divorced from al-Qaeda and part of the Syrian Salafi-Jihadi conglomerate Tahrir al-Sham – deny the group targets civilians. This is quite odd considering the group itself has not denied this, but, rather, has boasted about their acts. Official Nusra statements, which can be found in the sources column of the chart, make this fact abundantly clear.

Presently, the future outlook for security in Homs is positive. In late March, negotiators representing rebels in al-Wa’er, the last rebel-controlled district, signed an evacuation agreement with the government. Rumors are currently swirling about an upcoming government offensive against the rebel-controlled North Homs countryside, which is tied culturally to Homs and is home to many Homsi rebels who were bused there in 2014. The IS-controlled East Homs countryside (the area north of Furqlus), which is likely the origin of IS attacks, will probably be abandoned by IS in the near future as the walls come closing in on Raqqa and Deir al-Zour. While it’s unlikely we’ve seen the end of bombings in Homs, for Homsis, the worst is probably over.

Any additional bombings that do occur will be added to this list.