Syrian and Iraqi citizens caught in crossfire of war with ISIS militants

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In its capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, has declared a state of emergency.

The U.S. military is speculating that this move by ISIS is part of a new strategy to mount a full-scale defense of its de facto capital.

Such a move is likely fueled by suspicions for ISIS that local forces will try and recapture the city from the terror group.

As such, ISIS is arming Raqqa by moving in increased numbers of fighters and weaponry. Raqqa is an important strategic location for the terror group to maintain control over.

From this stronghold, ISIS has kept control over more than half of Syria for the duration of that nation’s civil war.

Attempting to combat the terrorist threat, the Syrian government has intensified its airstrikes. On Friday, these strikes in the northern city of Idlib claimed at least 12 lives, illustrating how increased pressure on ISIS has come at a high price to   civilians.

This escalation of attacks against Islamic militants followed the seizure of a central Alawite village by al-Qaeda fighters.

This victory for the Islamic militants likely hit close to home with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose background is linked with the Alawite minority. The Alawite are part of the Shiite minority that has been targeted by Sunni militants throughout the civil war.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British based group, has warned that in the present situation, the death toll is likely to rise. Idlib will probably remain a target of airstrikes because the city as well as its surrounding province was captured last year by the al-Nusra Front, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The increased airstrikes also appear to be a response to the insurgents’ recent capture of the Zaara village in central Syria. Once again, retaliatory airstrikes resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians.

In other war-torn areas of the Middle East, civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire of war as well.

Reminiscent of Iraq’s sectarian war in the not-too-far off past, three bombing shook various neighborhoods in Baghdad. The bombings ended in more than 90 deaths and scores of injuries last Wednesday.

ISIS took credit for the biggest of the blasts, which occurred in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northern Baghdad.

The explosives were hidden in pickup trucks laden with fruits and vegetables that were detonated in the middle of a busy food market, killing over 65 people and wounding over 87 others.

The other two incidents were car bombings at a police checkpoints. The first occurred in the Kadhmiya neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, resulting in 17 deaths, and the second in the Jamiya neighborhood, killing nine.

It is not surprising that the Islamic state has claimed culpability because the group is known for targeting Shiite communities, and Sadr City is one of the largest of those communities.

Still, the spirit of Iraqis has not been broken. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stated that “the latest explosion will not stop us from fighting ISIS.”

Indeed, Iraqi forces have made progress against the terror group.

Backed by the American-led coalition opposing ISIS and by Shiite-dominated paramilitary forces, Iraqi forces have regained some of the territory they had lost.

Despite these steps forward, Iraqi forces have been unable to combat the threat ISIS has posed to Baghdad, as illustrated by the recent car bombings.

However, Iraqi security forces are looking to amend this vulnerability. Plans have been put into motion to build a wall around Baghdad in order to combat future attacks.

The warfare and political turmoil that ISIS has ignited seems to have dimmed any hopes for peace in these war-torn areas in the foreseeable future.

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