August 5, 2015 | Quote
Islamic Extremists Target Homs, Syria
WASHINGTON—Despite facing severe threats in northern Syria from Turkish and U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, and Kurdish-led forces threatening their de-facto capital of Raqqa, Islamic State extremists are expanding an offensive in central Syria.
In typical counter-punch fashion, the extremists are using force mobility to open up new fronts to surprise opponents. In recent weeks the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has mounted a series of attacks on a Syrian airbase 90 kilometers east of Homs and on villages in the countryside around the country’s third largest city, say local political activists and rival Syrian militias.
The regime has been responding to ISIL attacks by unleashing barrel bombs on Islamic extremists and Syrian rebel militias in the countryside around Homs, the latest wave coming Tuesday on Rastan, say U.S. defense officials.
Jonathan Schanzer, an analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, says the jihadis “need to continue to conquer territory in order to survive” faced as the group is with dwindling resources and the U.S. targeting of its oil fields.
For all sides in the four-year-long civil war, Homs represents a crucial as well as a symbolic prize. Dubbed the “capital of the revolution” after residents embraced the call to overthrow the Syrian president in early 2011, much of the city fell under the control of the rebels for the first two years of the war until May 2014 when the government re-established control.
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