The Syrian governorate of Deir Ezzor has been witnessing a growing escalation in fighting, with fierce battles taking place between the Islamic State (IS) and the tribes there, resulting in mass executions and large-scale displacement. In the meantime, a Syrian military source speaking to Al-Akhbar denied reports of clashes and shelling in the areas surrounding the Damascus International Airport, describing the battle to encircle the airport declared by the Army of Islam organization as “illusory.”
In Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, developments are taking an increasingly bloody turn. Violent clashes broke out between IS and the tribesmen in the areas of al-Shaaitat, Abu Hamam, Kiskhiyeh, and Gharanij, prompting large numbers of civilians to flee those areas. According to activists, nearly 100,000 people, mostly women, children, and elderly people, have fled in the direction of Baqaan, Hujayn, al-Bahr, and al-Shaafa.
Meanwhile, sources said that IS have been bombing the villag indiscriminately using T-72 tanks. In turn, IS posted images purporting to show mass executions it carried out including by firing squad, beheading, and crucifixion. IS claimed the victims were prisoners it had captured from the ranks of al-Shaaitat tribal fighters.
A source from IS said, “The mujahidin, by Allah’s grace, have been able to capture a large number of traitors.” “Some were executed pursuant to Allah’s law on those who betray their oaths, and the rest will meet the same fate, and no one will escape punishment,” the source added.
“The operation is part of a failed psychological war following the successive losses suffered by Alloush and his organization.” - Syrian military sourceHowever, a source from the Shaaitat clan said that IS’ victims were actually laborers from the oil fields in the area. The same source told Al-Akhbar, “IS is holding dozens of prisoners from Shaaitat, mostly laborers from the oil fields now controlled by IS.”
Many of these prisoners were not aware of recent developments, while others were kidnapped at checkpoints just for belonging to the Shaaitat clan, the source explains. “The crimes being committed by IS against our people are meant to terrorize us, but they have backfired, and the criminals will not escape from the rebels who will avenge their brothers,” the source adds.
In the same vein, activists on social media sites said that IS is trying to convince the Gharanij Brigades to stop fighting alongside Shaaitat, and allow IS convoys to pass through their territory in return for safety for their lives and properties. However, according to the activists, the Brigades have refused the offer.
Sources also said IS tried to end the fighting against Shaaitat’s fighters, as it sensed the battles were not proceeding in its favor. However, IS seems to have made humiliating demands, including for Shaaitat to hand over 170 people it wants and lay down arms including their personal pistols, which the Shaaitat clan has refused. In the meantime, locals said that Syrian warplanes dropped flyers “saluting the courage of the tribesmen, and confirming support for them against IS’ terrorism.”
In Raqqa, reports indicated that IS continues to build up its forces to attack the Tabaqa military airbase, now the last remaining major Syrian military outpost in the governorate, after IS overran the headquarters of both the 17th Division and Brigade 93 in the past several days. IS fighters attacked the Tabaqa airbase on Friday, but the army managed to rebel the attack.
On the other hand, Syrian warplanes conducted airstrikes against IS bases in the city of Tabaqa, also on Friday.
On Thursday, Zahran Alloush, leader of the Army of Islam, announced the start of a battle to encircle Damascus airport, which aims to seize the airport and surrounding areas. Then on Friday, opposition Local Coordination Committees were spreading reports about violent clashes in the towns of Hteita al-Turukman and al-Ghazlaniya, which are close to the airport.
However, a Syrian military source denied the reports, describing this battle as “illusory.” “There are no battles,” he said, adding that “the Syrian army has been in full control of the area since October.” The same source stressed that it would be “impossible” to make any breach in the vicinity of the Damascus International Airport and adjacent areas, and said, “The operation is part of a failed psychological war following the successive losses suffered by Alloush and his organization.”
In Qalamoun in the northern Damascus countryside, fierce fighting broke out in the hills near Rankous and al-Jubbah, with Syrian warplanes targeting dozens of militants. Clashes also continued in the Joubar district south of the capital. Mortar shells fired by opposition groups landed in several neighborhoods of Damascus, killing and injuring several civilians.
Army units in the Kowaires airbase, in the countryside east of Aleppo, came under attack from IS fighters, who used medium to heavy weapons in their offensive.
Clashes also continued between the army and armed groups in the vicinity of Mount Azzan and the town of Khan Tuman, as well as on the outskirts of the village of Aziza, and the vicinity of the neighborhood of Sheikh Saeed. The groups seeking to cut off Aleppo’s southern gate could not make any progress.
In the city of Aazaz, in the northern countryside of Aleppo, opposition sources told Al-Akhbar that groups from the Islamic Front arrested more than 20 people in the city and nearby villages on suspicion of having links to IS.
On a different note, a source in the Aleppo Electricity Board said, “Maintenance works on the high-tension 400 kV transmission line between Zayzoun and Zorba have been completed, which will help increase the supply to the governorate of Aleppo.”
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