ISIS storms into strategic
town outside Qalamoun

The extremist group has continued to push westward after seizing Qaryatayn

An ISIS fighter celebrates victory in Qaryatayn. (ISIS)

BEIRUT – ISIS forces have seized a strategically located town south of Homs as they push further westward in the direction of Syria’s mountainous Qalamoun region along Lebanon’s border.


On Wednesday, the extremist group stormed into Qaryatayn after three of its suicide bombers detonated explosive-laden vehicles in the town, a now standard operating procedure for ISIS when it launches assaults on fortified positions.


As ISIS stormed the desert town the regime launched “more than 25 air raids, and rocket [strikes] from the Al-Hamrat Division [Base]” media activist Baybars Tallawi told Alaraby Aljadeed.


“A large number of civilians fell injured as a result of the regime’s random shelling of Qaryatayn,” Tallawi said.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 28 pro-regime fighters lost their lives in the ensuing clashes, while ISIS suffered 24 casualties before taking Qaryatayn, which is built on an oasis in the desert west of Palmyra, which ISIS took in late May.


“ISIS was able to advance and take control of all of the strategic town of Qaryatayn,” the monitoring NGO said.


Pushing on to Qalamoun?


Following its seizure of Qaryatayn, ISIS issued a picture statement on its victory that highlighted the town’s proximity to both Homs and Damascus, raising questions over the group’s next military objective.


For its part, the SOHR noted that the Syrian Desert town “connects the group’s areas of control in eastern Homs province with its areas of control in eastern Qalamoun.”


ISIS has maintained an armed presence in the eastern slopes of the Qalamoun mountain range northeast of Damascus after the extremist group reportedly abandoned most of its positions in the western sectors of Qalamoun near Lebanon, where Hezbollah has waged a fierce campaign against the Nusra Front since early May.


ISIS has continued to push westwards in the direction of Qalamoun following the fall of Qaryatayn, attacking two settlements to the west of the town.  


“Other confrontations took place today, between the regime and members of ISIS, on the outskirts of the Mheen area, which lies 12 km away from Qaryatayn,” Baybars Tallawi told Alaraby Aljadeed.


The pro-opposition Al-Souria Net, in turn, reported that ISIS would most likely head for Mheen in order to seize a regime weapons depot there.


The activist Homs Media Center told Al-Souria Net that “clashes took place yesterday between the group and regime forces at military checkpoints between Mheen and Qaryatayn.”


“The group could also move from Qaryatayn towards Qalamoun, rural Damascus and the Adra industrial city,” the outlet added.


The vital Homs-Damascus M-5 highway that runs through the Qalamoun region lies just 45 kilometers due west of Qaryatayn.

An ISIS fighter celebrates victory in Qaryatayn. (ISIS)

The group could also move from Qaryatayn towards Qalamoun, rural Damascus and the Adra industrial city.