BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:30 P.M.) – In October, both pro-government and pro-rebel audiences were shocked to witness a large ISIS force suddenly bursting onto semi-desert plains of northeast Hama province which undertook an offensive rampage that saw it seize multiple villages and towns in region from rival jihadist groups.
Despite the best efforts of militant factions to try eliminate the threat, they ultimately failed and since then the ISIS bastion has gradually expanded throughout northeast Hama, reportedly even reaching into southwest Aleppo province according to some opposition sources.
The estimates (all of which were baseless) put forth by pro-army and rebel sources are that this new Islamic State force consists of about 300 fighters. In reality, the number is around three times greater.
However large the ISIS group was when it first entered into northeast Hama, at the present time it possess – as revealed by a trusted source of the author of this article – about 800-900 fighters.
Defections from other militant groups, pro-ISIS spies hidden among refugees which fled towards Idlib from east Hama and the recruitment of captured rebel prisoners were said by the source to have considerably increased the size of the original force.
The type and amount of heavy military equipment possessed by ISIS militants in northeast Hama remains unclear.