For nearly two weeks, the SDF and Asayish, with full support from the Coalition to Defeat ISIS, has been conducting an enormous security operation in the sprawling al-Hawl Camp, dubbed “Operation Humanity and Security.”
The rising threat from ISIS sleeper cells, and the continuing threat of al-Hawl as an “incubator for terrorism” prompted the operation, which has been ongoing since August 24. In the first week, the operation yielded 121 arrests, with over 2,000 security personnel involved in the operation. 119 tents that had been used to recruit children, hold Shariah courts, and torture people were removed.
On September 3, a Yazidi woman who had spent half her life enslaved by ISIS was discovered and freed from her ISIS captors in the Camp, and on September 5, the Asayish searched the fifth and seventh sectors of al-Hawl, finding four women who had been tortured and chained in a tent.
Further noteworthy findings included hundreds of rounds of ammunition, trenches which were used to hide ISIS-linked individuals, and explosives such as TNT and grenades.
Arrests and disturbing findings have continued as the operation has progressed into the end of its second week. The communications director of US Central Command, Colonel Joe Buccino, released a statement on September 7 stating that the Al-Hawl operation has resulted in “the arrest of dozens of ISIS operatives and the dissolution of a major ISIS facilitation network both within the camp and throughout Syria.” He further mentioned that “it remains critical that the international community support this effort through repatriation.”
The al-Hawl Camp has been a major issue for both the AANES and Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as well as the UN and international organizations ever since the liberation of Baghuz in March, 2019, when tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families were taken into custody by the SDF as the last remnant of their Caliphate was freed.
Al-Hawl in particular has had a spotlight placed on it by the United States in recent months. Senator Lindsey Graham visited the camp while in the region on July 19, and he said afterwards “Most people think the war with ISIS is over. They don’t think about how you repair the damage.” The Washington Post published an op-ed by General Joseph Votel, the former head of Central Command, which specifically referred to al-Hawl as “incubating the next generation of ISIS.”