Syria Daily – Scott Lucas – June 13, 2014
With its sudden advance in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham has taken headlines from the Assad regime and Syria’s opposition.
Since January — just as it was claiming cities in Anbar Province in western Iraq — ISIS has been battling the Syrian insurgents with whom it had been allied in the fight against President Assad. It had been pushed out of almost all of its positions in Idlib and Aleppo Provinces in northwest Syria, although it still held Raqqa — the largest city outside regime control — in the north of the country.
With this week’s surge in Iraq, claiming the second city of Mosul and Tikrit, ISIS has fueled speculation that it could also win decisive victories over the border in eastern Syria. This would propel it towards the Caliphate which it has declared across the two countries.
Frontlines have been shifting back-and-forth between ISIS, insurgents, and Kurdish militias in Deir Ez Zor and Hasakeh Provinces; however, activists reported this week that ISIS fighters have encircled Deir Ez Zor city. One pleaded, “They have surrounded the city. There are no entrances or exits left for people to flee.”
ISIS’s seizure of Humvees, weapons, and other equipment from retreating Iraqi forces — highlighted in videos and pictures circulating through social media — has raised the prospect that its strengthened forces could now take Deir Ez Zor and consolidate control over the oilfields of eastern Syria.
The Free Syrian Army appealed international supporters for assistance, “The Supreme Military Council calls on all friendly and brotherly Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the U and Jordan, to give aid to the brigades on the ground in Deir Ez Zor Province so they can confront the terrorist ISIS organization.”
Published by Syria Daily