Islamic State sleeper cells have regularly attacked government forces in central and eastern Syria despite losing the last of their territory in 2019.
Suspected Islamic State militants attacked a Syrian military convoy in the Syrian desert overnight on Monday, resulting in the death of five government soldiers and the injury of four others, according to a war monitor.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said in a Tuesday report that the attack on the convoy, which included oil tankers, occurred on the Raqqa-Sulaymaniyah road in the eastern countryside of Hama.
Nine militants were killed and injured in the shootout that erupted following the attack, the local Athr Press website reported, adding that four tankers caught fire during the incident.
IS lost its last Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in March 2019 following an operation led by the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Since then, IS sleeper cells holed up in the Syrian desert have carried out sporadic attacks against government and SDF positions in the area. In response, the Syrian army, backed by Russian air power, launched a military campaign against IS’ last remnants.
SOHR has counted 367 casualties, including civilians, in clashes and military operations between IS and other forces active in the desert region known as Badiya since the start of this year.
In February, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported that IS killed 53 people gathering truffles east of Homs.
In December 2022, 10 oil field workers were killed when their convoy came under a suspected IS attack in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor, SOHR reported at the time. The attack came after the SDF announced a major operation to eliminate IS cells in response to an attack on a security complex in Raqqa claimed by the extremist group.
Earlier that year, hundreds of IS militants launched a large-scale attack against the Kurdish-run Ghwayran prison in the northern city of Hasakah, helping dozens of inmates to flee the facility. Violent clashes with the SDF ensued for days before the Kurdish-led group, backed by the US-led coalition, regained control of the prison. The SDF said 117 of its forces, including prison guards, were killed during the battle. The death toll among the attackers and prisoners reached 374.