The Telegraph reports: The extremist group Islamic State has launched a series of attacks across Syria, using military equipment seized from Iraq in its biggest concerted challenge yet to Assad regime forces.
Fighters from Islamic State have attacked two major military bases in the north-east of the country and well as regime-held areas near Aleppo.
They seized most of one base before coming under retaliatory aerial bombardment, seizing senior regime officers and in at least one case decapitating him, placing his easily recognisable head on a pole, according to pictures posted to social media.
The attacks mark a significant shift in the Syrian civil war. While the regime and Islamic State have fought in the past, both have until now preferred to focus their energies on the third major force in the civil war, the so-called “moderate rebels” comprising the Free Syrian Army and a variety of Islamist groups.
The attacks also suggest the group has for now abandoned plans to move further into Iraq or attack the capital Baghdad.
The change of tactics by Islamic State follows the gradual weakening of the western-backed rebels, who are squeezed between the jihadists and the regime. They declared war on the Islamic State in January, hoping that tackling the extremists would encourage more military backing from the West and its allies.
That backing never came, and with thousands of opposition fighters dying in the battles between competing rebel forces, the regime has advanced across key battlegrounds in the centre and north of the country, including Aleppo.
Meanwhile, in a series of lightning raids and defections, Islamic State managed to drive out competitors from most of the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, and seized major oilfields from the regime. [Continue reading…]