An ISIS militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama, Syria.
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Its forces nimbly move between conventional and guerrilla warfare, using the latter to wear down their opponents before massed fighters backed by armored vehicles, Humvees and sometimes even artillery move to take over territory.The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective. ISIS fighters are highly disciplined – swift execution is the punishment for deserting battle or falling asleep on guard duty, Iraqi officers said.Much of the heavy weapons it holds – including artillery and tanks – have hardly been used, apparently on reserve for a future battle.Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said ISIS stands out in its ability to conduct multiple battles simultaneously.The number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is estimated between 30,000 to 60,000, according to the Iraqi officers.Iraqi troops crumbled and fled as a larger ISIS force marched in.In Syria, Kurdish fighters backed by heavy U.S. airstrikes wrested the border town of Ain al-Arab from the ISIS after weeks of devastating battles and more recently, ISIS lost Tal Abyad, another Syrian town on the Turkish border.Saadi defied his own Iraqi military commanders who demanded a fast assault to retake Beiji.Its fighters' rations often include grilled meat kebabs and chicken, better than what Iraqi troops eat, Omran said.
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