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ISIS cells in central Syria have stepped up attacks against Syrian government forces and civilians in an attempt to expand their influence in the region.
On July 22, a blast hit a shuttle bus of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) near Tuinan gas field, which is located right on the administrative border between the governorates of Hama, Homs and Raqqa. Eight Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters were killed and at least nine others were wounded as a result of the attack.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other pro-opposition news sources speculated that the blast was a result of a drone strike, hinting that the United States-led coalition may be responsible.
However, pro-government sources said that the blast was caused by an explosive device or a landmine that was planted by ISIS cells.
Later on July 29, ISIS cells abducted three sheepherders, stole 400 sheep and set a tractor on fire during an attack near the town of Madan Atiq in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor. Following the attack, the Syrian military deployed a large force in the region and launched a search operation to rescue the three shepherds.
The terrorists struck again on July 31 when they ambushed a fairly large oil shipment of the government that was heading from Raqqa to Homs.
The shipment came under attack to the northeast of al-Saan town on the Salamiyah-Raqqa road in the eastern Hama countryside. Six oil tankers were destroyed during the attack, which also claimed the lives of five soldiers of the SAA and two civilian drivers.
On August 2, the terrorists attacked several military positions near the town of Madan Atiq in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor. However, the attack was repelled by the SAA and no losses were reported.
ISIS cells in central Syria are likely receiving support from their comrades in the northeastern region and the southeastern area of al-Tanf, which are controlled by the U.S.-led coalition and its proxies. The terrorist group’s influence is very strong there.
In recent months, Syrian and Russian officials warned on multiple occasions that the coalition was training “militants” in its bases, namely at al-Tanf garrison, to carry out attacks and sabotage acts against high-value military and civilian targets in central Syria and other parts of the country.
Most of ISIS recent attacks took place near key oil or gas fields controlled by the government. However, there are still no direct accusations against the U.S. from Damascus.