ISIS carried out 117 operations in Syria in May that were distributed as follows; Deir Ez-zor Province with 52 operations, al-Raqqa Province with 34 operations, al-Hasaka Province with 14 operations, Daraa Province with 10 operations, Homs Province with 5 Operations, and Aleppo and Quneitra Provinces with one operation each.
ISIS operations were concentrated in the eastern region of Syria with 85.5% of its total operations in Syria. Most of these operations were carried out in the eastern countryside of Deir Ez-zor, especially in al-Basirat area by 38.5%, Zabian by 19.2 and Hajin by 13.5%. On the other hand, ISIS operations in al-Hasaka were concentrated in the southern countryside of province, especially in the areas of al-Shaddadi, Markada and al-Arisha while ISI movements in Al-Raqqa concentrated in the southern countryside of the city, and sometimes extended to its northern and eastern countryside.
Although the International Coalition launched six landings in May, targeting ISIS elements and leaders, the organization's ability to move, maneuver and individual targeting has increased in recent times. Therefore, ISIS reacted to the International Coalition intensified operations in al-Basira by increasing its operations in Raqqa and its countryside. It is an indicator that ISIS can transfer its activities in SDF-controlled areas from one province to another despite the coalition support to the forces. Furthermore, ISIS has alternative plans to carry out activities and it is possible the organization will change the targeting methods according to the emerging conditions.
In parallel, the organization showed a clear attempt to take advantage of the disputes that caused a clan clash between al-Bou Afif from al-Bakir clan and al-Bou Frio from al-Dulaim clan, by mobilizing and trying to get sympathy against the SDF. This naturally reinforces the issue of ISIS presence through individuals linked to the local fabric and hence the coalition has not completely eliminated the cells of the organization, despite its ongoing operations in the region and the arrests and raids.
Although the organization focused its attacks against Qasd, its operations against the regime and its allies escalated in May compared to April, and most of its targets were concentrated in Homs, Daraa, and Raqqa provinces, in addition to its operations on the Palmyra-Deir Ez-zor road. The organization carried out these operations in a way that is different from its operations against SDF. ISIS often used security operations such as assassination, execution, and close targeting, while the attack against the regime and its allies was broad followed by assassinations and explosive devices, and targeting operations.
The tactics used against the regime and its allies indicate that the organization exploits the nature of the land and the expansion of open spaces in order to carry out surprise attacks against army divisions located near the Iraqi borders and against its moving forces in the region and to execute captives who are not useful for the organization. Consequently, this confirms that ISIS’s "attrition strategy" is its most important goal notwithstanding of expansion and control, while the organization waits for a crucial moment where it can return to the scene.