Around two weeks ago, the Coalition dropped leaflets calling all civilians no to approach the bridges and roads as well as Daesh headquarters. This warning by the Coalition was part of the anti-Daesh strategy which was introduced by the Coalition. The strategy has been limited to airstrikes which did not achieve any significant gains on the ground even though the Coalition has been formed one and a half years ago.
Deir Ezzor is the city of bridges, so what does the targeting of its bridges mean?
The Euphrates River divides the city of Deir Ezzor in two, the northern and the southern part (they are known between the locals as Al-Shamiya and Al-Jazeera). Several bridges were built on the Euphrates River to facilitate the movement and to keep the families living on the eastern and western banks of the river in contact. One of the most notable bridges is Al Muallaq Bridge, which was targeted and destroyed in 2014. It was a tourist destination for the civilians living in the city. The targeting of this bridge paved the way for the targeting of other bridges to separate the links between the banks of the river. It was followed by the destruction of Asiyasiya Bridge, a crucial bridge in the region, by warplanes belonging to the Assad regime as they were trying to besiege the city by cutting off the only passageway to the countryside surrounding it to facilitate the capture of the city.
The Coalition forces also targeted Al Baghuz bridge in the city of Al-Bukmal and other bridges in Al-Badiya, near the Iraqi border, in what was described as ‘the cutting off of Daesh supply-lines’. The headquarters of the organization are concentrated on the banks of the Euphrates river in Al Shamiya and Al Jazeera. It utilized the bridges to cross from Al Jazeera to A Shamiya when it captured the entire province. The main force of ISIL at that time was concentrated on the north of Deir Ezzor, which they captured in early 2014, before gaining the complete control over the entire province in July 2014.
The cutting off of the group’ supply-lines at the banks of the Euphrates River is a tactic that is adopted by the Coalition in order to divide the areas under its control, and delaying of their re-enforcements. The remaining bridges, such as Al Mayadin, Al Basir and Al-Isharah, as well as some other crossings where civilians use boats to cross the banks of the river, were all targeted. This means that the area has been isolated now, which would make it hard for the group to transport the heavy weapons, which would result in making it hard for it to maintain its control in the province and would force it to guerilla warfare in case a large-scale offensive to capture the province from it was launched.
On the military level, the targeting of the bridges might be successful, however, on the economic and social level it is a real human crisis added to the suffering of civilians who have been already under seize by the regime and Daesh.
Cities like Al Isharah and Al Mayadin, which are the economic centers of the province, are located on the southern side of the river, meaning that the civilians living on the other side of the river are now deprived of most of the basic needs since they are not able to cross the bridges, which are now destroyed. Their situation worsened as they are left without any equipped hospitals and big markets. The same thing is applied to medical centers.
The Assad regime failed in their attempt to cut off Deir Ezzor from the top in 2011, and is now targeting it from the horizontal side, turning it into a chessboard and isolated islands, which adds more misery to the civilian situation.
Written by Firass Allawi
Translated by D24