In an effort to recruit young people to join its cause, the Islamic State group has opened a military training camp in eastern Syria, the independent Syrian agency ARA News reported Wednesday. The camp, in the countryside of Deir ez-Zor province, is in an area where the Islamic State group is engaged in intense fighting with Syrian rebels.
“IS pays salaries to the youth who recently enrolled in the camp in an attempt to attract more recruits to encourage them to engage in battles,” Deir ez-Zor civil rights activist Taim Ali told the media outlet. He said dozens of Islamic State group fighters were taken off the battlefield in northern Syria and Iraq to train at the camp in the town of al-Sour after Islamic State group soldiers suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Kurdish peshmerga forces and the U.S.-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Heavy fighting has been reported around the airport in Deir ez-Zor but ISIS has not been able to seize it. “The military airport of Deir ez-Zor is still under the full control of the pro-regime forces,” a local media activist told ARA News.
Meanwhile, ISIS fighters are inching closer to the Syrian capital of Damascus, which would put the group about 60 miles from Jordan, 40 miles from the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and 20 miles from Lebanon, CNBC reported Tuesday. Jordan and Israel are arguably the most stable countries in the Middle East.
ISIS' advance toward Damascus led the United Nations to begin evacuating a refugee area in Yarmouk, near the Syrian capital, where thousands of civilians are based. “I think this is shocking a lot of folks,” Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNBC. Yarmouk has been held by moderate Syrian rebels for about three years, but ISIS is making an attempt to overtake the area. Thousands of Palestinian refugees are in the camp, and the Islamic State now controls more than half of the camp after attacking it.
"This is very surprising because of its proximity to the heart of the regime," Katulis said. "It's actually one of the first signs of a major outpost of ISIS in a place outside of the northeastern part of the country."