With Iraqi troops and Iraqi government-aligned militias building up in force on the Syrian border in recent weeks, al-Sousa town in eastern Syria was the site of the first exchange of fire on the ground in Friday.
Iraq’s Shi’ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, issued a statement reporting that they’d pounded ISIS forces in al-Sousa with heavy artillery. They reported 35 ISIS killed or wounded, though it was impossible to confirm how many were actually killed.
The statement indicated that they believed ISIS was about to cross the border into Iraq and attack them, using the bad weather in the area as a cover to get the drop on them without worrying about air support.
Though this may just be a legal justification for a cross-border attack, it is also in keeping with ISIS strategy in the region in recent months. ISIS has long favored using bad weather to give itself an advantage in counter-offensives, and has repeatedly routed Syrian Kurdish forces when the weather was such that US and coalition warplanes weren’t in play.
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