Syrian regime launch Deir az-Zour counter-attacks following IS offensive

Syrian regime launch Deir az-Zour counter-attacks following IS offensive
Syria's Deir az-Zour has come under a renewed offensive by IS forces, looking to capture the remaining districts of the city still held by the regime.
3 min read
15 January, 2017
Deir az-Zour has suffered terribly during the six-year war [AFP]
The Islamic State group renewed its offensive on the eastern Syrian city of Deir az-Zour this weekend, with regime districts coming under heavy artillery fire from militants who have also suffered heavy losses.

IS fighters launched waves of attacks on the area in an attempt to capture the last remaining neighbourhoods in the city, which includes a military airport vital for regime re-supplies.

The group managed to cut off the base by capturing a key road to the airport during an offensive over the weekend and took more territories around the regime-held city districts.

Pro-regime media said most of IS' gains were won back by Syrian republican guard on Sunday but that heavy fighting was continuing.

IS used tunnels and suicide bombers in the attacks, while waves of artillery barrages by the group resulted in heavy civilian.

There were reports of a second major offensive on Saturday night by IS, which cut the airport road.

Meanwhile, regime and Russian war planes were also reported to have launched waves of air raids on IS positions to aid the defenders.

An activist group Deir Ezzor 24 has painted a grim picture of life in the besieged districts.

UN aid drops to help the 115,000 residents trapped in the city have done little to alleviate the suffering.

Regime forces have confiscated medical supplies and food from the UN and sold them on to private traders who mark up items at "sky-high prices", the group claims.

This has left poorer residents without food and clean water and suffering without even the necessities to survive.

Power and electricity has been cut off by IS, leaving tens of thousands who can't afford exoribitant prices for fire wood to suffer cold temperatures this winter or burn their belongings.

Those attempting to flee the city are shot by regime forces, Deir Ezzor 24 reported.

There have been reports of starvation in Deir az-Zour, while regime conscription drives have forced men of working age into the army. 

Deir Ezzor 24 said that these men - aged between 18 and 45 - are given basic military training of no more than ten days before being sent on the front lines and suffer terrible conditions.

They become easy pray for IS fighters due to their lack of experience or training.

The city has been under blockade for two years, with Deir Ezzor 24 describing IS and the Syrian regime as "partners in the siege".

IS shelling has claimed the lives of 210 civilians, while 52 have died of starvation, and around 30 people have been killed either trying to flee or enter the districts with IS also murdering those attempting to smuggle in supplies to residents.

With power cut in the city, residents are using candles to light their homes, while universities and colleges have closed due to a lack of teachers and students who have fled Deir az-Zour or been forced into the army.