BEIRUT, July 25, (Agencies): The death toll from raids and suicide bombings carried out Wednesday by the Islamic State group in Syria’s southern Sweida province has risen to over 220 people, a war monitor. “The toll from the attacks increased to at least 221 dead, 127 of them civilians,” Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britainbased Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.
They came almost a week into a deadly Russia-backed regime campaign to oust IS fighters from a holdout in a neighbouring province of the country’s south. IS claimed responsibility for the violence, saying “soldiers of the caliphate” attacked Syrian government positions and security outposts in Sweida city, then detonated explosive belts.
The Britain-based Observatory said four suicide bombers targeted Sweida city while others hit small villages to the north and east and shot residents in their homes. At least 183 people were killed, including 89 civilians, the Observatory said. The remaining 94 dead were proregime fighters, mostly residents who picked up arms to defend their homes, it said.
Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has been relatively insulated from the war that has ravaged the rest of the country since 2011. “It’s the bloodiest death toll in Sweida province since the start of the war” and one of the deadliest ever IS attacks in Syria, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. He said regime forces eventually ousted IS from several villages its fighters had seized and put an end to the attacks. “Some residents who fled the attacks on their villages are returning and finding people dead in their homes,” Abdel Rahman said.
At least 38 IS fighters were also killed, including the suicide attackers. State media confirmed the attacks had killed and wounded people in Sweida city and villages to the north and east but did not give a specific toll. Omar, a resident of Sweida city, told AFP explosions began rocking the city around 5:30 am local time (0230 GMT). “The blast was sudden and unexpected.
Never in its history has Sweida seen such a tough day,” he told AFP. State news agency SANA published images from the city of the attack’s aftermath, showing a victim’s remains sprawled on a staircase near a damaged wall. Abandoned shoes lay in the middle of the road among fruit that had spilled out of cartons. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ali al-Zaatari condemned the “terrorist bombing in Sweida city,” saying all civilians should be protected. Government ally Russia said the IS attacks “confirm the need for energetic and coordinated efforts by the international community to eradicate this universal evil from Syrian territory.” (click here to read more)