Anticipating Deir ez-Zor's fall, Syrian regime evacuates weapons, artefacts
As the Islamic State group (IS) is making advances against the forces of the Syrian regime in Deir ez-Zor, the regime has reportedly begun removing heavy weaponry, ammunition and archaeological artefacts to Damascus and Latakia apparently in preparation for the fall of the city.
The IS advanced militarily inside the city of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria early this month and was able to seize control of two important neighbourhoods following violent confrontations with Syrian regime forces.
As IS forces advance toward Deir ez-Zor military airport and the last of the regime's supply lines to the province are cut off by IS control of strategic roads to the west, the Syrian regime is paving the way for the withdrawal of its forces and its gradual departure from the city by evacuating ammunition and important military equipment first, as well as the archaeological collection from the Deir ez-Zor Museum, transferring it to the Latakia and Damascus museums.
Media activist and member of the opposition media campaign "Deir ez-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently", Mujahid al-Shami, told al-Araby al-Jadeed from Deir ez-Zor that they had confirmed information a large amount of military ammunition stored at the Ayyash warehouses belonging to the 137 Armoured Brigade in the countryside to the west of Deir ez-Zor was being transferred to the Airport.
In addition, he said, all the statues and archaeological artefacts are being removed from the city's museum by Ilyushin aircraft.
This has become the regime's policy whenever it is about to withdraw from any centre or town that may fall to opposition groups. In the city of Palmyra, in central Syria, the regime removed all the archaeological artefacts from the museum and sent them to Latakia Museum. In Idlib, it evacuated the city's branch of the central bank and the old museum.
More than four air raids targeting the area around the Deir ez-Zor Military Airport were launched by the regime's air force, coinciding with violent confrontations between regime forces and the IS around the airport.
On May 13, IS fighters managed to seize control of Hawijat Sakr, east of the city of Deir ez-Zor, following battles that lasted five days. They also took control of the Badr Mosque checkpoint in al-Sinaa neighborhood, which serves as residence for regime officers and a center of operations in the east of the city and is considered one of the most important military sites.
This forced regime troops to withdraw from Hawijat Sakr towards the military airport and the village of al-Jafra after incurring human and military losses. The plan to secure the military airport, which the regime pursued for about a year, failed.
This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.