IS Steps up Offensive against Syrian Rebels

Apr 11, 2016

The Islamic State has stepped up its offensive against Syrian rebels in the past few weeks, both on the battlefield and via online propaganda. On April 10, the group launched a major offensive to seize control of rebel-held villages in the northern outskirts of Aleppo. Amid ongoing clashes between JN and IS forces in a refugee camp in southern Damascus, this campaign follows recent attacks by IS against Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) forces in the Western Qalamoun region in late March.

While escalating its anti-rebel campaign on the ground, the group has concurrently stepped up its propaganda in an aim to discredit Syrian rebel groups and portray them as Western puppets collaborating with foreign elements against Islam. A video released on April 9 by "Turjeman al-Asawriti," an unofficial IS media foundation, accused Syrian rebels, and more specifically Ahrar al-Sham, of relying on Western and Turkish airpower in their raid on the town of Al-Rai, north of Aleppo. The video accused Syrian rebels and JN of being part of the "Crusader Coalition" against the Islamic State.

An additional video released on April 10 by another unofficial media branch warned Sunni fighters in Syria not to cooperate with the American-led coalition: "Repent or we will reach you. Do not be a tool in the hands of America and Israel." Earlier, on April 3, the Islamic State's Al-Battar Media Foundation published an article titled "Jabhat al-Joulani in the Service of the Crusader plans in Syria," referring to JN leader Abu Muhammad al-Joulani. The article lashed out at JN, accusing the group of receiving weapons from the U.S. and participating in a U.S.-sponsored training program in Jordan.

This latest escalation comes as the Islamic State progressively loses control over its territories in Syria. The group was recently ousted from one of its key strongholds, the ancient city of Palmyra.


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