Already in control of over half of the territory of Syria, ISIS continues to make steady gains in the central Homs Province, today capturing the strategically important town of Qaryalain, southwest of the city of Tadmurand Palmyra, which ISIS captured just months prior.
Qaryalain is on a road connecting Tadmur and Palmyra to the Qalamoun Mountain region, along the border with Lebanon. This area has been contested by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Syrian military, with the latter backed by Hezbollah. In recent days, Hezbollah has been gaining more territory there.
Giving ISIS a connection from their main territory into the mountains, however, could change the situation there, and if ISIS manages to take that region all the way to the border, they’d control a contiguous region from central Iraq all the way to the Lebanese border, cutting through central Syria and leaving the southern, government-held Damascus cut off from contested Aleppo in the north.
While Syria has been heading toward an outright partition in the multi-year civil war, these latest ISIS gains could make the split all the more apparent, and all the more difficult to reverse, and weakening the Syrian military’s northern forces, already losing ground to al-Qaeda.