Deir Ezzor.. The War against Civilians
War against Daesh in Deir Ezzor turns over civilians
In the beginning of September 2017, Assad’s forces, being backed by the Russian aircraft and Iranian and Iraqi militias, launched a military operation aimed at advancing and capturing the city of Deir Ezzor in order to break the siege imposed on it. The operation was launched from different directions, the most significant of which was the Badiyah (Desert). Assad’s forces benefited from the de-escalation agreement to relocate a large number of their fighters and military vehicles to areas nearby Daesh-held areas. In a short period, they managed to reach the city of Deir Ezzor by taking advantage from the empty desert areas and the inability of Daesh to protect its units from the airstrikes and to repel the advancing infantry. They gained control over strategic areas on the outskirts of the city, which gave them the initiative to advance and break the siege on the regime-held neighborhoods, including Al-Joura, Al-Qusour and Harabish. However, they still have not managed to expel the organization from the city of Deir Ezzor.
The advancement of Assad’s forces coincided with the launching of military operations by the SDF and the Deir Ezzor Military Council, who were backed by the coalition, thus announcing the beginning of the battle of Deir Ezzor to expel Daesh. The SDF and other factions began the battle from different directions and their main priority was to capture the oil fields nearby Deir Ezzor, on top of which was the Conico gas field and the Jafra fields. They might also attempt to capture the Omar oil field close the city of Al-Mayadeen in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
The SDF succeeded in advancing very quickly against Daesh positions and took control over key areas such as the city of Al-Sur in north of Deir Ezzor and the industrial area on the outskirts of the city, as well as the oil and gas fields in those areas, which caused serious dispute between them and the Assad regime. Buthayna Shaaban, the political and media adviser of the Assad regime, threatened the SDF with attacks to recapture the areas they liberated from Daesh. In response, the SDF accused the Russian air force of bombing their positions in eastern Deir Ezzor. After that, the tension was deescalated for both parties did not want to attack each other, and they focused on securing their gains instead.
The SDF continued to advance towards the town of Markadah and managed to reach areas that are only 5 km away from it. Markadah is the town separating their held areas from the Khabur River line, which is also the line separating the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor from its eastern countryside. If the SDF continue to advance, they will be able to reach the city of Al-Mayadeen and then Al-Bukamal.
The quick advances by the SDF were in synchronization with a violent campaign by the Assad’s forces being backed by Russian aircraft to advance towards the southern countryside and to cut off the road to the SDF. To advance rapidly, they resorted to a violent air campaign which Deir Ezzor province has not witnessed since the year of 2011. The campaign relied mainly on airstrikes and barrel bombes which caused massive destruction. They also conducted reconnaissance flights to terrorize the local families. Some D24 correspondent and local families said that the aircraft used white photosphere and cluster bombs in addition to barrel bombs.
The violent and barbaric airstrikes by the Assad regime are utilized to depopulate the cities of Deir Ezzor, which will facilitate their advances towards the southern countryside and enable them to advance towards the Kharbur River areas, including Al-Mayadeen, before the SDF.
The airstrikes were carried out against most cities, towns and villages in south of the city. It is believed that the air raids are being launched from the Deir Ezzor Military Airport after the siege imposed on it was lifted recently. The cities and towns that were bombed heavily are as following: Muhassan, Al-Tub, Al-Bulayl, Al-Zabari, Buqruss, and Al-Mayadeen.
The barbaric and savage airstrikes have been ongoing without stop for several days now, causing large-scale destruction and staggering numbers of civilian casualties, in addition to displacing thousands of people, which is a part of the program to depopulate cities and towns in the province.
Al-Bulayl, Buqruss and Al-Mayadeen sustained the most destruction, and after them come Muhassan and other towns such as Al-Shaheel. The violent air raids caused many harrowing massacres in which entire families were wiped out on purpose, as they were not warned before the carrying out of the strikes. More than 127 civilians were killed, including 27 children and 29 civilians (DeirEzzor24 managed to document them by names) in the airstrikes against those cities and towns in less than a week.
The destruction caused in cities and towns in the eastern countryside is considered to be the most destructive one since the year of 2011. This is due to the extensive use of heavy bombs in the targeting of civilian houses and residential areas. DeirEzzor24 documented the destruction of 331 houses and 208 facilities. The rate of destruction reached 63 percent.
The airstrikes have not stopped since the beginning of the military campaign. It is ongoing day and night. It is tense during daylight hours and after 12.00 am. Civilians have no houses to protect them from the air raids. Many of them are now sleeping in the open to avoid barrel bombs and cluster bombs that are being dropped on a regular basis. In the same context, Daesh does not care about the civilian situation in the eastern countryside. It is only filming the amounts of destruction in the region using its drones and then releasing propaganda videos to deliver the message that it is under attack by several countries.
Ten thousands of civilians have fled over the past few days not because of the airstrikes only, but also because they realized that it is possible that the regime might return to their areas. They are fleeing to areas east of the Euphrates River that leads to SDF and Deir Ezzor Military Council held areas. They are doing this because they are afraid from the rule of the Assad regime, bearing in mind Assad’s forces and allied might would carry out execution against civilians, if they manage to enter the city of Al-Mayadeen. The fear of civilians from both Assad and Daesh is now clear. It is the main cause of their fleeing to the other bank of the Euphrates, which the regime forces would not be able to reach if they do not capture the city of Al-Mayadeen.
Tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped nearby the main cities in the province and are unable to flee for their lives. The villages in the eastern countryside have become overcrowded with thousands of civilians fleeing the airstrikes, death and savage displacement. All what they are looking for is safe havens that protect them from death at the hands of Assad’s forces, sectarian militias and the Russian aircraft, in addition to the atrocities and barbarity of Daesh against them.
The number of the displaced is estimated at 250 thousand since the beginning of September. It is mainly focused in the western countryside, the eastern countryside, mainly Al-Buleil, Muhassan, Buqruss, Al-Mayadeen, Al-Bukamal, Khisham, Murat and Hatlah villages. These cities and towns have become almost empty of their residents now.
The displaced civilians are split into two categories. The first they are internally displaced towards safer areas such as the villages of Al-Shaitat area, Al-Shaheel, and the villages of Muheimida and Hawayej in western Deir Ezzor and other desert areas nearby it. The second are displaced towards the SDF-held areas in rural Al-Hasakah and Al-Raqqa as well as the areas of Abu Khashab and Al-Jazrat in west of the province of Deir Ezzor.
The displaced are going through a tough and severe humanitarian situation. They are mainly facing the lack of refugee camps in Daesh-held areas as well as the lack of health care. Though they fled their homes, they are still living in fear for the aircraft can still target them.
Written by 24Studies & DeirEzzor24
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