Saturday, July 19, 2014

ISIS Connects Strongholds in Deir ez-Zour and ar-Raqqa

by Jennifer Cafarella

ISIS has successfully linked its territorial control between its ar-Raqqa stronghold and Deir ez-Zour city, solidifying an ISIS control zone that stretches from ar-Raqqa into Iraq’s al-Anbar province. ISIS seized control of eight towns located northwest of Deir ez-Zour city from the al-Bosarya tribe on July 18 likely after a set of negotiations over the terms of the tribe’s surrender concluded. This advance comes as Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) and Ahrar al-Sham forces surrendered control of the towns of as-Shametia and Jabal Kabous to ISIS, abandoning their local headquarters and withdrawing from the province. According to SOHR ISIS now controls 35% of Syrian territory. Interestingly, ISIS repulsed a subsequent regime attempt at reinforcement northwest out of the city with cooperation from local fighters. The terms of the al-Bosarya tribe surrender were likely those reported earlier in western DeZ province but not directly attributed to the tribe, namely, that the terms of surrender must include ISIS fighting alongside rebels against the regime. In response to ISIS’s gains, regime forces deployed military convoys from its positions near Deir ez-Zour city into the western outskirts of the city and are reported to have set up checkpoints in the al-Bo Jem’a area. However, ISIS seized control of al-Bo Jem’a following clashes between ISIS backed by fighters from local allied brigades against regime forces, which withdrew back the outskirts of Ayyash town near Deir ez-Zour city. The regime has therefore been unable to meaningfully challenge the ISIS advance, and can be expected to concentrate on consolidation of its fallback positions near the city itself.

On July 19 the regime launched a counterattack against the al-Sha’er oil field outside of Palmyra. Clashes are reportedly ongoing, with 51 regime fighters and 40 ISIS fighters killed.