Why ISIS seeks full seizure of Syria’s Deir ez-Zor?

Alwaght- Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria includes the three cities of the capital Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadin and AL-Bukamal. Over 90 percent of the territory of Deir ez-Zor was seized by ISIS terrorist group in mid-December 2014. It is located between Raqqa, the self-acclaimed capital of ISIS terrorists in Syria, and other ISIS-held areas in the neighboring Iraq. ISIS has one of the most significant sources of income now that it holds a majority of the province’s oilfields and produces and sells oil. Meanwhile, the forces of the government of President Bashar al-Assad still hold control of Deir ez-Zor’s center and also its airport.

During the past two years, Deir ez-Zor witnessed limited clashes between the Syrian armed forces and the terrorists of ISIS, but ISIS’ militants failed to usurp control of the remaining areas of the city from the Syrian forces.

Since August 2015, Deir ez-Zor has been under the tight siege of the ISIS fighters, with over 200,000 Syrian civilians in the city are now trapped in encirclement. The Russian and Syrian planes regularly airdrop aid facilities and food crates to the civilians trapped in some parts of Deir ez-Zor as the only way of access to the besieged city.

Recently, especially since May 7, 2016, ISIS terrorists launched a new wave of efforts, aiming at capturing what remained of Deir ez-Zor province. During the initial assaults, they managed to take control of the whole roads leading to the airport, al-Thayem Oil Refinery and a couple of districts inside the capital city.

One of the most significant parts of terrorists’ operations in the city was when they, on May 13, 2016, killed over 40 Syrian troops and briefly seized control of the major hospital in the city and held its personnel hostages. However, backed by the Russian fighter jets’ airstrikes and also Lebanon’s Hezbollah forces, the Syrian army forces managed, on May 14, to recapture the hospital from the grasp of ISIS terrorist fighters.

With this record of developments of Deir ez-Zor in mind, the objectives behind ISIS’ fresh round of attacks and the most important reasons behind significance of the Syrian province could be observed from a couple of essential aspects:

1. Deir ez-Zor province is a separating area between the self-acclaimed ISIS’ caliphate in Syria’s Raqqa and the terrorist group-held areas inside Iraq.  A full control of ISIS over entire parts of Deir ez-Zor could be effective in the group’s concentration of forces on the battlefields across Syria. Actually, the terrorist organization would not need to spend energy and military strength in a province the large parts of which are in its hands.

2. Deir ez-Zor is located between Al-Hasakah and Homs provinces. This comes while the Syrian Kurdish forces hold control of nearly 90 percent of Al-Hasakah province and a major part of Homs is in the hands of Syria’s central government army forces. Therefore, a strategic area in center of Deir ez-Zor, held by President Assad’s forces, could largely help defeat of ISIS’ forces in the province in the future.

3. Deir ez-Zor holds rich oilfields, and oil sales from the area could account for ISIS’ major revenue source to earn the necessary cash to administrate its governance there. Thereby, it is so significant for ISIS to capture al-Thayem Oil Refinery from the forces of central Syrian government now that the terrorist group more than any other time is in need of money.

By Al Waght