One year ago like now, our eyes were on the battle of Palmyra, our hearts skipped a beat every time news came out that liberation was a step closer, until 27 March 2016 when the gate of the sun was restored to shine on our hearts once again. As March of 2017 came back, the city was freed from terrorism for the second time, and the sun of Zenobia’s wounded city came out again.
With the first liberation of Palmyra in 2016, we all thought that the worst had passed, and that the 5000-year-old city would soon recover and heal its wounds, but then nine months later the city slipped out from the hands of its guardians leaving everyone in huge shock. This was not the first time the Syrian Army and allies has had serious difficulties maintaining territories that they have recaptured from ISIS and other “moderate rebels”. For that reason, Moscow decided to draw a new plan to avoid similar embarrassing losses in the future.
In the second battle of Palmyra, a new name came forward; the name “ISIS Hunters” started to circulate among both opposition and pro-government social media accounts rapidly, and with that rumors started to come out about who they are and who is behind them. Initial information referred to them being a group of volunteers selected carefully to form an elite force trained according to the highest Russian military standards by top Russian military experts. According to various sources, this force was assigned to protect one of the most significant dilemmas in the current war, gas and oil fields.
According to The Times , the Isis Hunters have been given the task of securing key installations that have made Palmyra one of the most bitterly fought battles of Syria’s war against terrorism. The sites include oil and gas fields, a military air base and an airport.
There was a buzz about those fighters being Russian or just being trained by Russian forces. Following their Twitter publications, it can be seen that they are all Syrian men, but with the uniforms they the arms the carry and the media escorting their work, it is obvious that a special effort has been put to raise this force. From all the concern paid to this force by all sides, it is obvious that they will be further involved in the coming operations against ISIS in Raqqa and Dier-Ezzor to guard government facilities in desolate areas around the country. According to a military source in Damascus, the Syrian Army’s Russian advisers want to make sure the government forces do not lose any more ground they have liberated from the Islamic State.
According to ISIS Hunters Facebook account, this force is made up of volunteers who are an “elite unit of the Syrian Army. Backbone of the unit is packed with military personnel who has nothing to lose from all around Syria. Their families were captured by ISIS, tortured, humiliated, abused, murdered, mutilated, and displaced.” The very few videos released showing some of those Hunters have made them a focus of interest of both Arab and international media. Many videos and photos of the soldiers with their “ISIS Hunters” patches on their arms went viral. British journalist Lizzie Phelan did an exclusive coverage from the newly-liberated city and around her we could see some “ISIS Hunters”.
ISIS Hunters are expected to attract more volunteers after the victory of Palmyra especially now with the progress towards Ar-Raqqa and Dier-Ezzor in parallel with the losses of ISIS in Mosul, Iraq.