ISIS continues advance on Deir Ezzor as FSA calls for support
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Syrian opposition leader in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor called for support for rebels battling militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Tuesday.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the head of the Deir Ezzor Military Council Lt. Col. Muhannad Al-Tallaa, said ISIS fighters were advancing on the provincial capital, and called for arms and ammunition “in order to repel attacks by the extremist ISIS organization which intends to take control of the city.”
Tallaa descried the situation in Deir Ezzor as “poor” and said: “If we do not receive ammunition and anti-tank weapons, the situation will become worse because we are running out of ammunition and ISIS have superior military equipment.”
Meanwhile, fighters from groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Al-Nusra Front, and other Islamist factions, continued to battle ISIS for control of Deir Ezzor, parts of which were controlled by the government and others by the opposition.
FSA and Al-Nusra Front fighters in the region are estimated to number around 10,000, while ISIS fighters are estimated at 2,000.
Tallaa said despite their smaller numbers, the ISIS fighters had superior arms and equipment.
He said: “ISIS have the ability to maneuver with their vehicles, which allows them to move quickly, and they have ammunition and heavy weaponry which allow them to use heavy gunfire to cover [their advance], in addition to being fully equipped and in receipt of financial and military support which comes from Iraq, Raqqa and the eastern suburbs of Aleppo.”
He also alleged that “a large number of ISIS fighters were foreigners, which prompted opposition fighters to unite against them after earlier hesitation.”
In Syria’s second city of Aleppo, fresh battles erupted between the opposition fighters and government troops defending the air force intelligence building in the city.
The media office of the Ahl Al-Sham Operations Room—which includes fighters from the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamist Front, and Jaysh Al-Mujahidin—claimed that rebel forces had made progress by seizing control of new buildings in the area.
On the government side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK based monitoring group, said Syrian military helicopters bombed Al-Haydariyah district with barrel bombs, while the air force bombed the Industrial City area in Sheikh Najjar. Helicopters also bombed the areas of Handarat, Hananu, and Ashrafiyah with barrel bombs.
Meanwhile, clashes intensified in the areas surrounding Homs, especially in Rastan where government forces increased their attacks on areas under the control of the opposition in an attempt to strengthen their hold on the province.
While the government and rebels continue to battle for control of Aleppo in northern Syria, rebels in Homs agreed to leave the city as part of a UN-brokered ceasefire last week after a brutal two-year siege.
Outside Syria, the joint UN–Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi resigned on Tuesday following two years of fruitless efforts to broker a negotiated solution to the Syrian conflict.
“I go with a heavy heart because so little was achieved,” he told a closed-door session of the UN Security Council, according to Reuters. “I once again humbly apologize to the Syrian people.”
The Algerian diplomat was able to organize a peace conference in Geneva at the beginning of the year, but talks went nowhere with neither side willing to give ground.
During his time as envoy, Brahimi also expressed frustration at divisions within the Security Council and the international community, which he said hampered efforts to find a peaceful solution.
Brahimi formally leaves his post at the end of the month. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he intends to appoint a replacement, but “at this time, I have to think who should be the right person and at what time.”