BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:20 P.M.) – The last several months has witnessed an exceptional increase in the amount violence between a key Islamic State affiliate based in Syria’s southwestern province of Daraa and local rebel groups. Here, a recent number of offensives by the group suggest that it may be attempting to expand in the face of fledgling opposition forces. In all of this, Israel – with whom the terror affiliate shares a border – appears to be indifferent to the developments taking place.
Since the virtual defeat of ISIS throughout its core territories in eastern Syria and Iraq over the course of 2017, the Islamic State affiliate group Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Walid (interchangeably called Saifullah al-Maslul Army) based in the Yarmouk Basin region of Daraa has greatly increased its operations against rebel militias throughout the province.
During the last several months, three offensives by Free Syrian Army-linked groups to roll back the ISIS presence in Daraa have all failed.
Since the beginning of 2018 alone, hundreds of rebels around have been killed in clashes with the ISIS affiliate group; furthermore some towns and villages have reportedly been seized from the control of opposition fighters by Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Walid during assaults that represented more than just raids.
Demographic and geographic conditions favor the expansion of ISIS in Daraa.
The area is still modestly populated despite seven years of war, meaning that there is a decent base of people for the terrorist group to tax should they be conquered.
Moreover, the land in Daraa is very fertile, meaning that the Islamic State bastion can continue to feed itself regardless how far its territories extend or how ever many new people are incorporated into it throughout the province.
Food aside, the control of agriculture also serves as a key source of revenue for the self-declared proto-state as it was during the time it controlled large sections of the Euphrates valley.
Interestingly enough, the ISIS bastion in Daraa shares a border with the heavily-militarized Israeli-occupied Golan region, yet Israeli troops and Islamic State fighter only ever engage each other on very rare occasions.
The last known border clash between Israeli troops and ISIS militants was in November 2016 and – as Israel ex-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon admitted – the Islamic State solved the dispute by apologizing to Israeli military authorities.
To this effect, the continued indifference of Israel adds a third factor which favors the expansion of ISIS in southern Syria – this being apparent political immunity granted by local powers who otherwise have the means to destroy the bastion.