The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (known as ISIS), has declared a state of emergency.
Sources within the U.S. military believe the terrorist organization is planning an “all-out” defense of its headquarters in Raqqa in northern Syria. Raqqa has been the ISIS stronghold for most of the war in Syria, although the terror group controls more than half of Syria.
There are reports that ISIS is scrambling to move artillery, equipment, and fighters into the city, in expectation that local forces will soon attack to capture it.
On 5/13, Syrian government airstrikes in the northern city of Idlib killed at least 12 people, activists in the area reported.
The strikes came as part of an increased air campaign launched after Islamic militants seized a key Alawite town. President Bashar Assad is part of the Alawite minority, an splinter group of Shiite Islam that has been targeted by Sunni militants throughout the war.
Raed Saleh, the leader of the a first responders group that operates in war-torn areas, said at least 15 corpses, including three children, were pulled from the rubble after two airstrikes hit the residential area of Idlib. Another 38 people were wounded.
A coalition of insurgent groups, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, captured Idlib and the surrounding province of the same name last year. The airstrikes came only a day after militants captured the village of Zaara in Syria, where private and government media said dozens of civilians were killed.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that initial reports of the violence in Zaara were “very, very troubling,” and indicated it was based on “religious affiliation.” But he said it identify who was responsible.