Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadis threatened to execute more than two dozen women and children it abducted in southwest Syria if dictator Bashar al-Assad does not stop his offensive against rebels in the region Friday.
An unverified video purporting to show the terrorists killing one of the female hostages this week sparked protests by people demanding government protection in southwest Syria’s Sweida province, located along the border with Jordan.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports:
Some protesters shut down the headquarters of the provincial governor on Thursday, according to residents. Discontent in Sweida, home mostly to the country’s minority Druze religious sect, has been building since an unusually bloody series of Islamic State attacks in July.
The attacks killed more than 200 people, shocking a community that had largely evaded the worst violence during the war. Islamic State kidnapped dozens of women and children, whom it is now threatening to kill.
Residents have accused the Assad regime of failing to take action to rescue the hostages.
Today, families of the Druze hostages held by ISIS, estimated at about 30 mostly women and children, rallied for a third day to demand action by the Assad regime to liberate them, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) agency learned from witnesses of the demonstrations.
The kidnappings by Islamic State reflect the challenges—from administration to security—the Assad government faces as it reasserts control across the country after a more than seven-year war and the near defeat of Islamic State.
Residents of Sweida said the Assad government hadn’t taken any steps to rescue the women and children. The government wasn’t available to comment.
Following the fall of ISIS’ so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group has resorted to “guerilla-style” tactics to show it is still capable of wreaking havoc, particularly in Assad-held areas, the Journal pointed out.
Although the U.S.-led coalition, the Assad alliance, and their allies have dealt ISIS a significant blow, the group continues to hold pockets of territory, mainly in Syria.
According to various assessments, the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters control more territory in Syria than any other stakeholder.
Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the country.
“Its fighters maintain an insurgency in eastern and southern Syria, and broke through a government siege in late September to enter the eastern part of Sweida province,” pointed out the Journal.
Most of the province reportedly remains under Syrian regime control.
On Tuesday, the U.S.-led coalition said it was closing “in on the last group of remaining fighters in Syria,” adding that its allies on the ground have surrounded the “last pocket of ISIS resistance.”
However, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think-tank warned that ISIS is regrouping to mount a “second resurgence” in Iraq and Syria despite ongoing efforts to thwart its recovery.