‘There were children in there’: A testimony from a surrendered suicide bomber

In late March, alleged IS affiliate Liwa Shuhada al-Yarmouk (LSY) went on the offensive in southwest Daraa province, breaking out of its pocket of territory sandwiched between Syria’s borders with Jordan and the occupied Golan Heights.

Taking rebel forces by surprise, the Islamist fighting force captured a number of villages and merged their territory with another alleged IS affiliate, Harakat al-Muthanna.

Facing an alliance between the FSA’s Southern Front and the southern Jaish al-Fatah, the Islamist coalition’s victories were short lived.

In mid-April, the rebel alliance, which includes Ahrar a-Sham, Jabhat a-Nusra and Jordanian-backed FSA brigades, rolled back LSY and al-Muthanna’s gains, capturing three villages and four military checkpoints. 

In response, LSY began relying heavily on suicide bombers to strike back at its militarily superior adversaries, Syria Direct reported.

Last month LSY and al-Muthanna announced the formation of Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed. The name references the 636 Battle of Yarmouk where Khalid ibn al-Waleed led 35,000 Muslim soldiers against 240,000 Byzantine soldiers.

Outnumbered and cornered in southwest Daraa, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Waleed, the merged IS-affiliate, continues to rely on assassinations and suicide bombings.

In this Syria Direct dispatch from Daraa, a surrendered LSY operative offers insight into the group’s recruiting and training practices.

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali, originally from Daraa, had completed his first year studying Broadcast Journalism at Damascus University before leaving Syria in August 2012.

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

David Leestma, Reporter/Translator

David Leestma studied International Relations at Grand Valley State University. His studies took him to Lebanon, as well as Morocco and Oman with the Critical Language Scholarship in 2014 and 2015. Before joining Syria Direct as a full time reporter, David interned with Syria Direct as a translator and collaborated with ISW to produce the Syria Situation Report.

Aaron Williams, Reporter/videographer

Aaron Williams is a journalist, documentary filmmaker and former aid worker with seven years of experience working in the Arab world. He's lived and worked in Amman, Beirut, Benghazi, and various locations in Palestine. He is the founder of Jaha Media and has published work with Aljazeera America and Foreign Affairs.