Images purportedly showing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in al-Qaser in the countryside of Suweida have caused growing concern among the people of the province, stirring fears of the unexpected emergence of ISIS in their region.
The village of al-Qaser is situated only nine kilometers from the Damascus-Suweida highway, and three kilometers from the largely Druze village of al-Huqaf, which ISIS fighters failed to capture in an attack on 19 May.
According to local sources in Suweida, ISIS’ presence on the outskirts of the province has stirred fears among the people of the eastern villages, especially after they received information on the regime army's withdrawal in preparation for the surrender of the region to ISIS forces.
The sources pointed out that the withdrawal of regime forces has created a state of alert among the youth of Suweida after ISIS warned of an attack on the mountain in the coming few days.
It is estimated that the number of ISIS fighters stationed on the outskirts of the province has reached about 500, half of which are members of Bedouin tribes living in the region, heavily armed with dozens of tanks and heavy artillery.
Sheikh Abu Ayyub, a fighter who has participated in the ongoing battles on the outskirts of Suweida, spoke to al-Souria Net claiming: "The province may be left alone if ISIS decided to attack it. ISIS attacked us in the middle of this month, we faced them and prevented them from seizing al-Huqaf, but the regime provided no support in the fight, though its barracks were located a few hundred meters from us, and we all know that the regime would not care if ISIS attacked us again".
According to various sources, regime forces refused to move when ISIS approached as it hopes to exploit the situation in Suweida and Daraa, as regime forces fear the strengthening of opposition factions in the south of Syria.
The Free Syrian Army’s Al-Omari Brigades in Daraa issued a statement explaining that ISIS has not attacked regime forces in Lajat, although it did attack opposition factions in the area.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer