Homs – Syrian regime’s army forces on Thursday launched an offensive on Islamic State’s (ISIS) strongholds in the central governorate of Homs, killing and wounding several militants, activists reported.
At least four ISIS jihadists were killed and over a dozen were wounded after the Syrian army bombed the group’s headquarters in eastern Homs with heavy artillery.
Abu Hafs al-Mashrifi, the ISIS chief of security in Homs, was among those killed in Thursday’s offensive.
“Al-Mashrifi, who used to lead ISIS security operations in Homs Governorate, was killed along with other ISIS jihadists under Syrian army fire in the Huwesis District east of Homs,” media activist Abdulkhaliq al-Fistaqi told ARA News.
A source close to ISIS also confirmed Al-Mashrifi’s death.
The bombardment also led to the destruction of two ISIS vehicles and a tactical unit in the targeted district.
The regime-led operation came in response to recent advances by ISIS in Homs Governorate.
In December 2016, militant fighters of the Islamic State seized control of key areas in the governorate after clashes with Syrian army troops.
On December 27, the militant group captured the Black Hills, known as al-Tilal al-Soud, that overlook the eastern part of Homs city. “ISIS launched a fierce attack on headquarters of the pro-regime forces in the vicinity of al-Qaryatain town, using mortar shells and Grad rockets. The heavy bombardment forced the army to withdraw from the Black Hills, that are now under ISIS control,” media activist Amro al-Hussein told ARA News at the time.
On December 20, ISIS militants captured parts of the T4 airbase east of Homs, after seizing security checkpoints in the nearby Mashtal and Qasr al-Hir Districts. The group had imposed a siege on the airbase on December 12 and destroyed at least five warplanes. Located in the Homs’ eastern countryside, the T4 Airport used to be a critical security installation, providing regime forces with close air support.
On December 13, ISIS fighters captured the main road between al-Qaryatain town and Homs city, which used to be a key supply route for the Syrian regime’s army forces. The radical group seized control of the supply-line after capturing military checkpoints that were previously held by the Syrian regime’s troops.
Also, on December 11, the Islamic State recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs Governorate subsequent to heavy clashes with pro-regime army forces. Russia had supported the Syrian Army in Palmyra, with airstrikes and logistical support but their efforts were apparently insufficient to save the city. ISIS first took over Palmyra in May 2015, following a protracted battle with regime forces. The Islamic State’s occupation was exceptionally harsh, even by the standards of Syria’s 5-year-long conflict.
Reporting by: Haytham Mustafa | Source: ARA News
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