Deir Ezzor – Sound and Picture
When IS fully dominated Deir Ezzor province during 2014, It announced that the control of Deir Ezzor military Airport will be the first victory that will be awarded to the people of the province, having been stubborn in the face of lots of armed factions that tried to liberate it before IS.
This battle cost those armed factions lots of weapon and men on the airport walls without ability to achieve a decisiveness by any side, either the regime or the armed opposition. This was justified by IS as of the free the army’s (or SAHWAT as IS calls them) unwillingness to take control over the airport, stressing that IS will control it within a few days. However, after IS took control over the province of Deir Ezzor, It has not been able to fulfill the promise it made to the people.
IS, at the beginning of its control over the region, tried to seize the airport by all means. Fierce battles took place between IS and the regime forces where the majority of IS’s fighters was either ex-FSA fighters who have been fighting on this front before the control of IS, or Chechens and Libyans who were brought by IS as a striking power. At the beginning, the battle was led by the IS leader “ Omar Alshishani”, known among IS members of his strength, bravery and severe stamina for he never withdrew a battle before winning it, but the fighting lasted for nearly a month before the pace decreased considerably later.
However, IS reactivated this front in the recent past and began to recruit for it dramatically; replacing Omar Alshishani with another commander known as Abu Omar Albaljiki (Abo Omar the Belgian). This is the first time that IS fired an Amir (prince) of the top ranks before winning the battle. This created problems within IS that summoned the advent of Al-Adnani to the region to resolve it. IS, because of its battles on several fronts, faced a significant shortfall in the human inventory, which required it for the use of civilians in the beginning to dig trenches, only to develop later to using them in combat.
The reporter of “Sound and Picture” in Deir Ezzor explained that IS was initially arresting civilians who commit offenses, such as smoking or shaving the beard, and taking them to the battlefront to dig trenches for a certain period then letting them back. Lots of civilians have been killed during the drilling as a result of fighting or because of the bombing of the regime. Though, IS engaged them in its battles and put them in the front rows.
Khaled, a young man from the city of Mayadin in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, stated to “Sound and Picture”: “IS detained me for nearly four months under the pretext of trimming the beard. They took me to the airport Front for 15 days during which I was digging trenches and building barricades to IS fighters along with many detainees from the rural cities. Last month, I was stopped by an IS checkpoint while returning from outside the city squares. An IS member asked the passengers in the bus: (Do you want Airport of Deir Ezzor to be liberated?) The Civilians out of the fear answered (Yes), Then the IS members took us to the airport and when we arrived they gave a gun and ammunitions and put us on the frontline. Behind us, they put IS fighters of the Syrian nationality and behind those were the immigrants, threatening anyone who tries to withdraw with immediate death. The battle then became a battle of life or death to us, either to fight for a certain period with the high possibility of getting killed by the regime or to be killed by IS if we do not. The battles lasted for three days after which IS took me back with whoever was still alive of the civilians to the city squares and released us.
IS faced some problems also with the Syrians members, whom it called “Al-Ansar”. The problems happened because of the bad treatment of IS to these members and considering them as second-level-members and recruiting them in losing battles. A source close to IS, who requested anonymity, said to “sound and picture” that “immigrants in IS consider the Syrian fighters in IS People with corrupted belief and cowards, That is why the immigrants always follow the Syrian members and stay behind them out of fear of their withdrawal or treachery. Foreigners, on the other hand, receive special treatment in terms of salaries, housing, food and many other things which created a lot of problems that IS tried to conceal by arresting any person who stands in the face of immigrants”.
IS tried to resolve the battle of the airport by changing the leader, but continued fighting pushed IS to threaten the princes who are leading the battles of dethroning and trial unless they win the battle. In the next few days, Abu Anas, an informed source, said that IS sent a message to the leaders that “the battle must be completed in just one month otherwise, dethroning and trial will be the consequence”.
The source added that leaders, in turn, dramatically began to rally for this battle in terms of fighters and weapons and issued orders to arrest offenders and prepare them for this fight. The orders included the collection of fighters from the eastern and western countryside of Deir Ezzor and prepare what he called “suicide bombers and intruders” to the final battle.
IS has carried out several operations in an attempt to progress. One of them was a car bomb driven by an IS fighter of the Egyptian nationality in addition to several car bombs. However, IS progress only lasted for few hours before the regime regained the areas they lost.
The crowd prepared by IS for battle of the airport suggests the seriousness of threats addressed to the leaders, but the reality of the battles portends failure similar to the former battles. Therefore, activists from Deir Ezzor expect Al-adnani to go back again to the region for the purpose of appointing a new commander in the case the seizure of the airport did not work out this time