In an about-turn from its preference for gory videos of mass beheadings, the Islamic State (IS) has released a new propaganda video showing the group's public services in full swing.
The video appears to be an effort to promote the community efforts of the terrorist group in its self-declared Islamic caliphate. From a community bread mill to a IT center via some routine electric cable maintenance, the video comes with the same high quality production values usually reserved for sending threats to western governments. Reportedly filmed in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, the images of street cleaning and fence painting may be part of a new propaganda strategy to convince potential new recruits that life in the Islamic State capital isn't all public executions and coalition airstrikes.
Meanwhile the government of Bashar al-Assad suffered a further set-back in the northern province of Idlib, as Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra captured two strategic military bases in the northern towns of Wadi al-Deif and Hamidiyeh. The taking of the army bases leaves the city of Idlib as the last regime stronghold in Idlib province.
Al-Nusra has established itself as a major player in the Syrian conflict partially through its defeat of more moderate rebel forces. The group's prominence in Idlib has come at the expense of US-backed groups, including the Syrian Revolutionary Front (SRF), which have come under attack from both al-Nusra and IS forces. Al-Nusra has further strengthened its hand by working with like-minded Islamist groups, including Jund al-Aqsa, who share a desire to overthrow the Assad regime and establish an Islamic state in the country,
Rami Abdurrahman, of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, told VICE News that al-Nusra had benefited in the assault from heavy weapons, including TOW missiles - US-made wire-guided anti-tank missiles originally supplied by Western governments for use by moderate rebel forces.
The victory is of both symbolic and strategic importance for the group. In succeeding in overrunning al-Deif, a base the Western-backed SRF previously laid siege to for two years without making significant gains, al-Nusra has displayed its growing military prowess. Strategically, as the province of Idlib straddles the Turkish border town of Bab al-Hawa, it could potentially represent a key source of future revenue for the group. The al-Deif base is also situated on a highly important motorway which links Aleppo with Homs and, the capital, Damascus.
While coalition efforts are largely focused against IS forces in the east, much of the west of the war-torn nation, as far South as the border with Israel, is slowly slipping into the hands of a group with its own dreams of a caliphate.