A Syrian military operation against the Islamic State (IS) group in the vast Al-Sukhnah desert has hit a deadly snag.

Sixteen Syrian soldiers, including an officer, perished Wednesday, June 12, after encountering a minefield and subsequent attack by IS militants, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The incident underscores the persistent threat posed by IS remnants in Syria, particularly in the sprawling Badia desert stretching from Damascus to the Iraqi border.

Despite the group’s territorial defeat in 2019, IS has adapted to a guerilla insurgency, targeting government forces and Kurdish fighters with deadly ambushes.

Devastating Toll on Syrian Loyalists

SOHR reports reveal a grim reality. Over 348 Syrian loyalists have been killed by IS this year alone, casting a shadow over the claimed success of the anti-IS operation.

In addition to Syrian government casualties, SOHR also reported that over 40 civilians, including a child and a woman, were killed in attacks by IS in the Syrian desert. Regime forces and their proxy militias reportedly killed nearly 30 IS militants during the same period.

The United Nations (UN) estimates a combined IS force of 3,000-5,000 fighters remain active in Iraq and Syria, with the Badia serving as their Syrian stronghold.

These developments highlight the challenges faced by Syrian forces.