Deir Ezzor – Sound and Picture
IS dominated Deir Ezzor province in July of last year after fierce battles continued for several months with the armed opposition groups in that region. The main reason for the fall of this province is the fall of Albu Kamal city, which is the largest city in the eastern countryside, and also because of the following allegiance announcement of Al-Nosra front to IS. After the withdrawal of fighters to several destinations, such as Kalamoun, Deraa and the northern countryside of Aleppo, IS took over the rest of Deir Ezzor cities, dominating the oil-rich province and expanding its control zones in Iraq and Syria at a distance exceeding 700 square kilometers, equivalent to five times the size of Lebanon.
Since the beginning of its establishment, IS worked to keep the fighting fronts away of its fighters location and its headquarters, expanding in all directions to distract its opponents, and used the large geographical area as a helping factor to fortify its headquarters and keep them away of danger in order to obtain greater comfort to its fighters. This strategy also helped IS to extend its influence and to apply its Sharia in civilians areas away from any disturbance.
After the fall of Deir Ezzor province, IS tried to access to the cities through tribes and worked on dismantling them by imposing unfair regulation. IS also disarmed the tribes and ordered them to hand over all the fighters and to surrender their weapons, also imposed heavy fines on the possession of a heavy weapon. As well as, IS empowered the Syrian IS members in the region to break the power of the tribes, which increased the tension among the people, to explode later when Alshaitat tribe responded on IS insults by attacking its headquarters and kidnapping a number of immigrants and then killing them. IS felt the seriousness of the situation and sent a very large reinforcements to the area and began attacking the tribe with all kinds of heavy weapons, committing many massacres against civilians in which to show its firmness in addressing any resistance may appear by the people.
Abu Omar, a former fighter from Albu Kamal, said to “Sound and Picture” reporter: “in spite of IS control over the province, I still feel threatened. The resistance encountered in the province was not like anywhere else, as the strongholds of the major IS cities of Mosul and Raqqa fell much easier than Deir Ezzor. The resistance of the people did not stop as IS members are still exposed to shooting and abductions and are attacked weekly, if not daily in some cases. This created a state of terror among IS members in the region, so you see them always walk in groups. “
The serious security situation in Deir Ezzor forced IS to find a quick solution. IS positions are no longer safe, as they are targeted from air by the international coalition forces and on the ground by undercover fighters whom IS could not reach.
Abu Obeida, said to “Sound and Picture”: “The security situation has become a nightmare for IS which forced IS princes to look for a quick solution to this problem. They studied the idea of finding a safe area for their headquarters that are similar to the headquarters of Shaddadi in Hasaka, so they selected an area in Zbari in the eastern countryside and issued an unannounced orders for their fighters to harass people by all means to induce them to leave the area, such as confiscation of homes on various charges and the arrest of young people to send them to fronts, sometimes under the pretext of having committed Sharia irregularities or claiming that Jihad has become obligatory for all young people in the region, which forced many families to leave the region and migrate to other areas outside the control of IS. Later, IS allowed foreign fighters to settle in these houses and worked on fortifying buildings, possibly to use them as headquarters. “
After the big losses suffered by IS in Raqqa, and the declaration of YPG with the so called “Democratic Army” the processing of Raqqa Battle, IS began to relocate the families of immigrants to Deir Ezzor and Shaddadi to resettle in these “safe areas.”
Abu Qasim said: “last week we saw a large numbers of immigrants families in Raqqa carrying luggage and travel Bags, and a large number of the women wearing Hosba costume. These families were transported to Deir Ezzor province and to the city Shaddadi in Hasaka. These were the first batch of families, as most of immigrant families began preparing themselves to move.”
Zbara is the first safe area that IS is working to prepare in Deir Ezzor, and most likely it will not be the last, for the areas that IS loose daily, whether in Iraq or in Syria, and its policies that being implemented in the region, indicating its intention to make Deir Ezzor the new Tora Bora.