Counter-terrorism forces of the SDF in northeast Syria. (Photo: SDF Coordination and Military Operations Center/Twitter)

Original article published on Kurdistan24 by Wladimir van Wilgenburg on 15 April 2021

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The number of targeted killings in the al-Hol displacement camp in northeast Syria have fallen slightly following a sweeping security operation by the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to a new report from the Rojava Information Center. 

Sixteen people, including two women, died in the camp in March, the RIC’s monthly report said, “a slight decrease since February.”

The SDF’s Coordination and Military Operations Center said on April 10 that “no new crimes” had been reported in the camp, which is home to some 62,000 people.

The first phase of the SDF’s “Humanity and Security Campaign,” which started on March 28, led to 125 arrests, according to the Syria-based RIC. 

“It is likely we will see more progress, and hopefully see the numbers of attacks, escapes and fatalities decrease as the arrests increase,” RIC researcher Robin Fleming said.

The operation was launched in response to a high number of deaths – including what appear to be targeted assassinations – in the camp this year: 20 in January, 19 in February, and the 16 reported in March.

Fleming cautioned that although attacks in the month of February and March had decreased, “we predict an increase in the next months, due to the fact that in both 2019 and 2020, during the month of May, around the time of Ramadan, attacks increased drastically.”

The SDF on Wednesday arrested two members of so-called Islamic State sleeper cells in al-hol, including a suspected leader, the CMOC said, without giving further details.

Col. Wayne Marotto, the spokesperson for the US-led coalition against Islamic State, said that the SDF was “working relentlessly” to ensure the terrorist group’s “remnants never obtain the means to resurge.”

Although the SDF and coalition announced the “territorial defeat” of Islamic State in Syria in March 2019, the group continues to carry out sleeper cell attacks, especially in areas where it formerly had control, in an apparent campaign to destabilize the area.

On April 2, the General Command of the SDF-linked Asayish announced the arrest of 125 Islamic State suspects after the end of the first phase of the al-Hol campaign. On April 5, the SDF said it captured another senior member of the terrorist group.

According to the United Nations, there are about 62,000 people still in al-Hol; the majority are displaced Iraqis and Syrians, but the camp also includes a large number of foreign families thought to be tied to the Islamic State.

The SDF has repeatedly called on foreign countries to repatriate their citizens.