Homeland Security Network Blog

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Spotlight on Global Jihad Report: November 12 - 18




The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Main events of the week

  • The main events of the week were the shooting and suicide bombing attacks carried out by ISIS in Paris by eight terrorists operating at six different sites. At least 130 people were killed in the terror attack. This operation, which was carefully planned and directed by ISIS, is a deviation from ISIS’s known modus operandi in Western countries. The Paris attack was preceded by two other killing attacks (interception of the Russian aircraft and a suicide bombing attack in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburb of Beirut). These attacks demonstrate ISIS’s operational ability to carry out complex attacks in various locales far from its bastions of power in Syria and Iraq. The attacks were followed by an ISIS media campaign threatening to carry out additional attacks against France and other Western countries.
  • In the meantime, ISIS suffered a few painful failures on the ground: in Iraq, the Kurdish forces liberated the area of Sinjar and cut off the main supply route between Mosul and Al-Raqqah; in Syria, the Syrian Army had a few successes to the east and south of Aleppo. In addition, several senior operatives who either belonged to ISIS or were affiliated with it were killed: Abu Ali al-Baridi, commander of the ISIS-affiliated Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigade, which operates in the southern Golan Heights, was killed in a suicide bombing attack initiated by the Al-Nusra Front; the British terrorist codenamed Jihadi John was killed in a US airstrike around the city of Al-Raqqah; and Wissam Abd al-Zubaydi, ISIS’s leader in Libya, was killed in a US airstrike around Derna. All of these are operational and image-related blows to ISIS, which are liable to impel it to carry out further showcase attacks outside Syria and Iraq.


The international campaign against ISIS


US and coalition airstrikes


  • This week, the US and coalition forces continued their airstrikes against ISIS targets. During the week, a few dozen airstrikes were carried out by means of fighter planes, attack aircraft, and UAVs. Following are the main airstrikes (US Department of Defense website, November 12, 2015):


  • Syria- the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Al-Hawl (east of Al-Hasakah), Palmyra, Al-Raqqah, Abu Kamal, and Deir al-Zor. The airstrikes targeted ISIS tactical units, buildings, and one ISIS operative.
  • Iraq- the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Haditha, Kisik (west of Mosul), Ramadi, Sinjar, Baiji, Mosul and Tal Afar (west of Mosul). The airstrikes targeted ISIS assault positions, an ISIS command and control center, positions and bunkers, a bridge, armories, staging areas for ISIS operatives, vehicles, weapons, self-produced IEDs, and car bombs.


  • The coalition forces spokesman said that up to November 12, 2015, the US-led coalition forces had carried out 8,125 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Of these airstrikes, 5,321 were carried out in Iraq and 2,804 in Syria (US Department of Defense website, November 12, 2015):
  • Following are details regarding the targets that were destroyed or damaged in the airstrikes: 126 tanks, 354 Humvees, 561 outposts, 3,956 buildings, 3,930 combat positions, 232 oil facilities, 4,622 other targets (US Department of Defense website, based on information from CENTCOM, October 8, 2015). The cost of the campaign against ISIS has reached USD 5 billion (US Department of Defense website, October 31, 2015).


French Air Force airstrikes on targets in Al-Raqqah


  • On November 15, 2015, twelve French planes carried out an airstrike against ISIS targets of the city of Al-Raqqah, ISIS’s so-called capital in Syria. According to reports, the French carried out another airstrike in Al-Raqqah on the night of November 16-17, 2015. The airstrike was carried out in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. The sites that were attacked in the first airstrike included a headquarters, a recruitment center, an armory and a training camp. According to sources the ITIC believes are affiliated with ISIS, civilian targets such as a stadium, museums and buildings housing political entities were attacked.
  •  According to The New York Times, the decision to attack was made on November 14, 2015, at a meeting of the French president and the national security team. The airstrike was carried out in coordination with US forces, who provided the French with intelligence on ISIS targets in Syria (nytimes.com, November 15, 2015).


Russian involvement in the civil war in Syria


  • According to Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian plane crash in Sinai was caused by the explosion of an IED weighing about one kilogram.He said that it was definitely an act of terrorism (ITAR-TASS, Sputnik). In consequence, Russian President Putin announced (November 17, 2015) that his country would expand its airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
  • During the past week, Russian Air Force jets carried out a large number of airstrikes in Syria. In the ITIC’s assessment, most of them were not carried out against ISIS targets. The airstrikes were concentrated on the areas of Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, Latakia, Damascus, Daraa and Deir al-Zor. According to Russian Ministry of Defense Spokesman Igor Konashenkov, the airstrikes damaged ISIS observation and battle positions, fuel tanks and ammunition depots, weapons, workshops for manufacturing ammunition and IEDs, training camps, outposts and fortified sites (rt.com, November 13, 2015).
  • On November 14, 2015, photos were published originating from ISIS’s Al-Raqqah province, showing the results of airstrikes carried out by Russian aircraft against the city of Al-Raqqah. The photos show destroyed buildings, fire and smoke rising from the rubble, and a crater that formed in the ground (muslims-news.net, November 14, 2015).


  • According to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), 7,000 citizens of the former USSR have left the country and joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In the ITIC’s assessment, this large number of operatives has the potential to carry out acts of terror and subversive activity in Russia and the Caucasus when they return to their home countries after fighting in Syria.
  • According to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chika, Russia has stepped up its monitoring of money transfers from Russia to countries where terrorist activity is carried out.He made these remarks at a conference of the International Union of Prosecutors of Central and Eastern Europe and East Asia. According to him, increasing the monitoring of money transfers to areas where terrorist groups are in control enables Russia to arrest terrorists using legal tools. Chika stressed that the Russian Supreme Court has designated ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front as terrorist organizations (TASS, November 10, 2015).


Main developments in Syria


The area of Aleppo


  • In the rural area of Aleppo,the Syrian Army has had a number of successes since early November. The Syrian Army managed to take over the important city of Al-Safirah, southeast of Aleppo (early November 2015) and lifted the siege on the Kuweyres military airbase (November 10, 2015). The Syrian Army also reportedly advanced toward the highway between Aleppo and Idlib (November 12-13, 2015).  However, the fighting is still ongoing between the Syrian Army and the rebel organizations in the rural area south of Aleppo, and neither side has emerged a victor. According to reports on social networks, Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani is currently in the area south of Aleppo. The Qods Force commands forces of Iran, Hezbollah and the Shiite militias, and coordinates the attack with the Syrian Army.[1] 


  • ISIS operatives are trying to exert pressure on the Syrian Army troops at the Kuweyres military airbase. They are doing so by detonating car bombs and firing mortar shells. According to ISIS’s Aleppo province, two attacks were carried out, in which two car bombs were detonated.  According to the announcement, over 50 Syrian Army combatants were killed and wounded in these explosions.


  • The rebel organizations, of which the most prominent is the Al-Nusra Front, are now concentrating large forces in the rural area of Aleppo in order to carry out a counterattack.These forces reportedly include more than 6,000 operatives equipped with armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons (Twitter account affiliated with the Al-Nusra Front, November 14, 2015). Several rebel organizations, including Jaysh al-Fatah and Ahrar al-Sham, have declared a state of emergency and called for a general mobilization to protect the rural area south of the Aleppo (Al-Mayadeen, November 17, 2015).


Hezbollah operatives taken prisoner by the Al-Nusra Front


  • On November 15, 2015, the Al-Nusra Front announced the capture of three Hezbollah operatives during the battles taking place in the rural area south of Aleppo. Videos posted by the Al-Nusra Front’s media foundations made use of propaganda through “interviews” with the three operatives. According to Mohammed Mahdi Shu’aib, one of the operatives, the operation in the rural area of Aleppo was carried out under the command of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani. According to him, there are Iranian fighters in the area, along with Iraqi fighters and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives. He said that each of these forces was fighting on a different front. According to him, the Syrian Army has a limited presence on the ground and is not playing a significant role in the battles. According to another Hezbollah operative, Hassan Nazih Taha, the Iranians are commanding the military operations while the fighters are Iraqis, Afghans and Hezbollah operatives (Al-Jazeera TV, November 15, 2015).

Read more: http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20912

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