(New York, N.Y.) — A new report issued by the United Nations’ commission charged with investigating human rights violations in Syria warns the country is at risk of renewed widespread large-scale combat. In particular, the report points to human rights and humanitarian law violations, including attacks resulting in large numbers of civilian deaths and an inability for civilians to access basic resources like food and water.
In an effort to prevent increased extremist violence, the U.S.-backed internal security forces assisted by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) recently concluded a 24-day sweep at al-Hol, a camp for internally displaced people (IDP). The raid not only uncovered ISIS sleeper cells that were indoctrinating new generations of ISIS fighters but also resulted in the confiscation of weapons and the detention of 226 extremists. Along with male ISIS members, the camp houses women and children. Some women have aligned themselves with ISIS’s agenda by serving as enforcers for the camp’s “morality brigade,” facilitating money transfers, or even taking up arms in battle.
Across Syria, more than ten thousand former ISIS fighters and their families live in IDP camps, which have become ISIS’s new frontier for recruitment and radicalization. ISIS has gained influence across a few camps already—with al-Hol being the largest camp targeted.
“A return to large scale fighting across Syria can only serve to create an environment that will engender more significant extremist activity,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) research analyst Greg Waters. “Since losing territorial control in 2019, ISIS has demonstrated a robust resilience and ability to exploit weak or distracted security forces across the country. Any large-scale fighting involving any of the forces in Syria—whether the SDF, rebel factions, or the regime—will only provide further openings for ISIS to expand once again. We cannot afford to ignore the signs or evidence as represented in this U.N. report.”
To read CEP’s resource Syria: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource ISIS, please click here.