The Islamic State killed more than 200 people in coordinated attacks on regime areas of southern Syria on Wednesday.
ISIS fighters stormed villages and carried out suicide bombings in the provincial capital Sweida. The head of the Sweida Province health authority said 215 people were killed and 180 injured. Regime officials said 75 ISIS attackers were slain.
At least two attackers blew themselves up in Sweida, one near a marketplace. State news agency SANA said two other militants were killed before they could detonate their bombs.
Hostages have reportedly been taken from the villages.
Sweida Governor Amer al-Eshi later insisted, “The city of Sweida is secure and calm now.”
The assaults dented the regime’s confidence after a pro-Assad offensive captured most of the opposition territory in southern Syria, notably in Daraa and Quneitra Provinces, in the past five weeks.
Enabled by Russian bombing, regime forces have reached the Jordanian border and removed the opposition from Daraa city, the site of the 2011 uprising, with about 320,000 people displaced. The pro-Assad ground assault and Russian warplanes are now attacking a pocket held by an ISIS affiliate, Jaish Khalid bin al-Walid, in the Yarmouk Basin in western Daraa Province.
The Islamic State, which once held much of northern and central Syria, has been removed from control of almost all other areas by a combination of pro-Assad, Turkish-rebel, and US-supported Kurdish-led offensives since autumn 2015. In addition to the JKW pocket, the jihadists are now concentrated in eastern Syria near the Iraq border.