While Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are reportedly close to a new agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Syria, the Islamic State escalated the violence in the country on Sunday.
On Sunday, six ISIS terrorists killed close to 190 people and wounded hundreds of others in car bomb and other suicide attacks in Homs and the Damascus region in Syria.
The carnage started when two ISIS suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Shiite shrine in Sayyida Seinab killing 120 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. This was followed by a car bomb attack in Damascus and a twin car bomb attack in Homs that killed another 64 people and wounded at least 180 others, SOHR reported.
The attacks came after reports that the Islamic State suffered new defeats at the hands of the Russian/Iranian led pro-Assad coalition and rebels supported by the U.S.-led coalition in the area north of Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.
The pro-Assad Shia news site Abna and the London-based Sunni Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported that ISIS lost 25 villages in the Aleppo area over the last week and had started to evacuate hundreds of fighters and their families from the area. A spokesman for the Russian army confirmed the evacuation and said “militants in Aleppo have carried out a mass evacuation of their families to the north of the province toward the Turkish border.”
Also on Sunday, the Daily Mail in Great Britain reported the publication of a new ISIS video that shows how the Jihadist organization uses children to carry out suicide attacks with car bombs in Syria and Iraq.
Abu Imara al-Omri, an 11-year-old boy, can be seen in the video kissing his father’s hands before driving a truck bomb toward the village of Gazl near Aleppo where he detonated the car bomb, blowing himself up.
Before driving in the direction of Gazl, the boy and his father inspect the explosives-laden truck, and the child receives instruction how to ignite the explosives. The final part of the video shows Abu Imara sitting in the truck and receiving his father’s blessing before taking off to Gazl where the explosion of the car bomb is visible sometime later.
The increase in ISIS suicide attacks in Syria is part of a shift in the strategy of the group after both the Russian/Iranian led coalition and the U.S.-led alliance stepped up its air campaign in the country and succeeded to halt the advance of ISIS to other regions.
The Islamic State is now trying to sabotage American efforts to come to a ceasefire in Syria because the group knows it will be excluded from the arrangement. The parties involved in the ceasefire negotiations agreed earlier that the battle against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra will continue after what Kerry now calls by its Arabic name “Hudna” is realized.
Kerry said Sunday the parties have come closer to a cease-fire (Hudna) in Syria after he announced that President Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will speak on the telephone several times this week to iron out the final details of the agreement. The Obama administration wants a ceasefire that is long enough to start up negotiations about the future of the war-torn country. The Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad will benefit from this “Hudna” and has already announced a willingness to enter the cease-fire.
ISIS wants to torpedo the ceasefire because continued fighting will serve its interests and will relieve some of the pressure on its fighters. Sowing chaos and destruction to destabilize countries is part of the ISIS doctrine and has proven effective in Iraq, Syria and Libya where the U.S. launched its first airstrikes on ISIS last week.
The airstrikes on ISIS positions in Libya do not mean that the U.S. will restart its involvement in Libya experts say, but were meant to deter the Islamic State from expanding its activities into Tunisia.
The Daily Beast reported last week that Obama refuses to implement recommendations by the U.S. military to start a military operation against the Islamic State in Libya. Instead, the administration decided to carry out isolated strikes against ISIS that will hopefully prevent a spillover of the war in Libya to other countries in the region.
Kerry and Obama have previously said that military intervention in Libya would be dependent on the forming of a national unity government in Tripoli. Now that this government has finally been formed, the President seems to renege on his promise to go after Islamic State “anywhere it appeared.”