Raqqa – Sound and Picture
During the past days, the international coalition attacked two bridges, the old and the new, in al-Raqqa city with several airstrikes, leading them to be entirely out of service, and dividing the two sides of Euphrates River apart in al-Raqqa, after being divided earlier in Deir Ezzor by the coalition’s attacks on all bridges of the province.
Targeting the bridges in al-Raqqa is a continuation of the coalition’s policy to cut the roads between ISIS-controlled areas to prevent it from sending convoys and supplies between its regions; however, civilians were more affected than ISIS.
One of the civilians of al-Raqqa city, Abou Saad, said: “Yesterday the raids were very strong, all residents of al-Raqqa even the ones so far from bridges heard the sounds; then the water was cut off from the entire city as the main waterline was located on the old bridge. I do not know how we will move around after today; it seems that we will go back to the river ferries that were prevalent in the beginning of the twentieth century.”
The old and new bridges of al-Raqqa city were not the only ones that went out of service, as all bridges in the province went out of service as well, including Sawamea al-Salhabeya, al-Yamama, Sahl al-Khashab, and the military bridge near al-Ansar farm in the western countryside, in addition to the bridges of al-Abbara village, al-Galta, and Khnez in the northern countryside, al-Moghla bridge in the eastern countryside, and a large number of small bridges such as al-Marouda, al-Maizila among others. The total number of bridges targeted by the coalition in the province reached fifteen, where the largest one was the new bridge which was three kilometers long and sixteen meters wide, and had went into service in the 1960s. This bridge was previously targeted by the Russian air force in November 2015, after which ISIS restored it, but the coalition attacks last night were strong enough and made it very difficult to restore it back to service.
The coalition said that targeting the bridges of Deir Ezzor earlier aimed to prevent ISIS from moving freely between the areas under its control, but ISIS was not much affected by this policy and continued to send support between its regions and brought support from Iraq, despite cutting off all bridges in Deir Ezzor province, which totaled more than 10 bridges. Civilians were the most affected as they sought alternative means of transportation, such as river ferries, which was very costly for the civilians.
Abou Mohammed from Deir Ezzor countryside said that “after cutting off the bridges in the entire province we used the river ferries which cost us a lot of money, but we cannot do without them as I had to go to al-Boukamal to run my errands, such as visiting doctors or buying groceries because we depend largely on the cities on the other bank. This made it much harder as we cannot use the ferry if the weather was bad, and on the other hand ISIS was not affected by cutting off the bridges, and perhaps it even benefited from that, as it imposed extra fees on owners of ferries, and they took those fees from us the civilians.”
Targeting bridges last night put civilians in al-Raqqa in a position closer to siege, with battles getting closer to al-Raqqa city. This puts civilians between the jaws of ISIS on one hand and the forces that are trying to control the city on the other; it prevents civilians from moving towards other regions, and gives ISIS the ability to use them as human shields in the battle of al-Raqqa, which raises many questions about the benefit of targeting the bridges by the coalition, and its impact on ISIS.