The operation followed an IS attack on Raqqa in late December that killed six members of the Kurdish-led forces. The SDF also announced the formation of a “joint operations room” supported by the international coalition aimed at targeting IS cells.
Kurdish-led forces in Syria regularly conduct joint anti-ISIS patrols with the US-led coalition. The patrols were temporarily halted late last year when Turkey launched a campaign of airstrikes against Kurdish groups in Syria in retaliation for a deadly November explosion in Istanbul. Ankara blamed Kurdish groups for the attack, an allegation the groups deny.
The SDF said that according to its intelligence, ISIS is “trying to reorganize terror cells and appoint new leaders” as well as “give instructions to move from individual to collective terror attacks on prisons” holding members of the IS.
More than 42,400 foreign fighters and some 23,200 Syrians accused of links to ISIS – and their families – are being held in camps and prisons in northeast Syria, according to a Human Rights Watch report last month. The report detailed dire conditions in detention centers and called for the repatriation of foreign nationals detained – mostly women and children – by their countries.
Western countries have repatriated increasing numbers of their citizens from northeast Syria, including most recently France, which sent back a group of 32 minors and 15 women on Tuesday.