State media and activists said that at least 26 people who were searching for valuable truffles in the Syrian desert were killed by the Islamic State.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that civilians and pro-government fighters were among the victims of Sunday’s attack in Hama province.
ISIS militants have repeatedly preyed on those looking for mushrooms, with more than 150 people killed this year.
A kilogram (2.2 pounds) can fetch more than the average monthly wage in the country.
The official Syrian news agency, SANA, quoted a police source as saying that ISIS militants attacked a group of civilians in the village of Al-Duwezen in the eastern countryside of Hama, killing 26 of them.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group that relies on an extensive network of sources on the ground in Syria, put the death toll at 36 and said the casualties included at least 17 pro-government fighters. National Defense Forces.
Hunting for truffles is extremely dangerous as poachers deal with land mines and Islamic State fighters keep their hideouts in the desert where they grow.
But many facing poverty and unemployment exacerbated by the war in Syria are taking risks as mushrooms can sell for up to US$25 (£20) a kilogram depending on size and grade in a country where the average monthly wage is around $18 (£14). ). .
The period of time during which you can make money is small as the truffle season only lasts from February to April.
There have been several attacks on food gatherers in recent months, with women and children among the victims.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 15 truffle hunters were killed last month in central Syria. Dozens of others are also reported missing.
A few days ago, 16 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a similar attack targeting fodder in the same area.
In 2014, ISIS fighters seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, imposing their brutal rule on nearly eight million people.
The group was driven from its last sliver of territory in 2019, but it is estimated that it still has between 5,000 and 7,000 members and supporters spread between the two countries, about half of whom are fighters.
Syria has been devastated by a 12-year civil war that broke out after President Bashar al-Assad’s government responded with deadly force to peaceful pro-democracy protests.
The fighting left half a million dead and caused half the population to flee their homes, including nearly six million refugees abroad.
More than 15 million people inside Syria need humanitarian aid, including nearly 9 million affected by the massive earthquake that struck neighboring Turkey in February.
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