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IS kidnaps more than thirty civilians

· Retaliation in southern Syria against Assad offensive ·

Damascus, 31 July. At the point of abandoning the last points of resistance in southern Syria, the IS (Islamic State) has made a retaliatory move targeting civilians. Al Baghdadi militants kidnapped a group of approximately thirty women and children in the As-Sweida region. This region has been involved in a series of attacks over the last few days which have claimed more than 200 victims. As-Sweida borders Jordan and is not far from the Israeli border: it is the last stronghold of the Islamic State in southern Syria.

Local authorities have publicized more detailed information regarding the IS captives: there is a group of women between the ages of 18 and 60, as well as sixteen children. IS broadcast a video of one of the hostages: the imprisoned woman asked government forces to cut off offensive attacks in the Yarmouk valley. The video also showed the militants threatening to kill all of the hostages. One of the women captives was found dead, killed by a gunshot to the head, and another, an elderly woman, died while attempting to escape. As-Sweida city representatives and religious figures in the area are in contact with mediators trying to negotiate the release of the hostages.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces, backed by the Russian military, move forward in southwestern Syria. According to local sources, the Damascus offensive is focused on the Al-Shajara district and neighbouring Abdin and Kuya, along the Yarmouk river which, in that area, divides Syria from Jordan and from the Golan Heights, controlled by Israel. It is an area in which approximately four thousand civilians live that has been out of government control for many years. The most active jihadist group in the region is the Khalid bin Walid Army, a military group affiliated with IS.

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