ISIS attacks Syrian hospital, declares state of emergency
US defense official says ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi "remains extremely careful" about his personal security
ISIS on Saturday killed 20 members of pro-regime forces in an attack on a Syrian hospital in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitoring group said after the militant group declared a state of emergency in its stronghold city in the conflict-torn country.
“ISIS attacked Al-Assad hospital at the city’s eastern entrance, killing at least 20 soldiers and allied fighters,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
He said the attack sparked clashes in which six militants were also killed.
Meanwhile, a US military official has seen reports of ISIS declaring a state of emergency in Raqqa, its self-declared capital in Syria.
"We have seen this declaration of emergency in Raqqa, whatever that means," Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, was cited by CNN as saying on Friday.
"We know this enemy feels threatened, as they should."
It is believed that the militant group feels it may soon come under siege in Raqqa through air strikes and ground attacks.
"They see the Syrian Democratic Forces, along with the Syrian Arab Coalition, maneuver both to their east and to their west," Warren said.
"Both of these areas becoming increasingly secure, and the Syrian Democratic Forces increasingly able to generate their own combat power in those areas."
ISIS is reportedly “|moving personnel around the city and trying to put up covers in certain areas” as part of the state of emergency declaration, according to CNN.
"We've had reports of ISIL repositioning both their combat capabilities, I guess what they think may be coming next," Warren said, using another acronym for ISIS.
"And we've seen reports of them repositioning personnel ... either within the city or even out of the city."
CNN quoted a US defense official as saying that ISIS leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi "remains extremely careful" about his personal security.
He also said ISIS snipers are targeting humanitarian corridors established by security forces to relieve suffering in the ISIS-held city of Fallujah in Iraq.
Deadly airstrikes in Idlib
In a related story, suspected Syrian government airstrikes in the northern city of Idlib killed at least 12 people on Friday, activists said.
The strikes came as part of an intensified air campaign launched after Islamic militants, including al-Qaeda fighters, seized a central Alawite village. President Bashar Assad hails from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that has been targeted by Sunni militants throughout the civil war.
Raed Saleh, the head of a first responders group that operates in opposition-held areas, said at least 15 bodies, including those of three children, were pulled from the rubble after two airstrikes in a residential area of Idlib. He said another 38 people were wounded.
The Observatory, which relies on activists inside Syria, put the death toll at 12 and said it was likely to rise as rescue efforts were still underway.
A coalition of insurgent groups, including the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, captured Idlib and the surrounding province of the same name last year.
The airstrikes came a day after insurgents captured the village of Zaara in central Syria, where activists and government media said dozens of civilians were killed. Ahmad al-Ahmad, an activist from the nearby city of Hama, and the Observatory said airstrikes were also launched around Zaara on Friday, where clashes were still underway.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said government warplanes struck Nusra Front strongholds in Idlib province and Hama, killing more than 30 militants.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that initial reports of the violence in Zaara were “very, very troubling,” and indicated it was based on “religious affiliation.” But he said it was not yet clear who was responsible.
(With AFP, AP)