ISIL continues to wreak havoc in Syria's Deir Ez-Zour


The military operation led by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir Ez-Zour in northeast Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seems far from ending soon.

Deir Az Zor, Syria – A military operation by a United States-backed Kurdish coalition against the last pockets of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, in northeast Syria seems far from ending soon.

The ISIL is successfully absorbing the attacks of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish as well as Arab and Assyrian militias.

Since the start of the SDF offensive in the northeastern province of Deir Az Zor on May 10, ISIL fighters have been blending in with the civilian population, making identifying the group’s members difficult, according to an SDF commander.

Despite the fact that ISIL seems doomed militarily, it has powerful sleeper cells who help it to forestall the coalition movements by strewing mines everywhere; in trees, on roads, in fridges, inside toys, and under blankets.

Civilians in the area are paying the highest price. There are more than 255,000Internally Displaced People (IDP) from Deir Az Zor city, living outside the area, under control of the Syrian army.

According to the United Nations, 800,000 civilians have returned to their villages in 2017, risking their lives because of mines and IEDs, while others choose to stay in makeshift homes, often with no food, medical care and humanitarian assistance.

The Doctors Without Borders’ hospital in Kurdish-controlled al-Hasaka, 185km north of Deir Az Zor, receives an average of one patient per day with injuries caused by landmines and IEDs. Most of the injured come from Deir Az Zor and more than half are children.

The final battle against ISIL in the northeast is fought between the villages of Hajin and Al Bukamal.

A building under observation along the front line in Bahara.

In Deir Az Zor, the advance against ISIL has followed two paths – to the west of the city with the government army supported by Russians and to the east with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the US-led coalition.

Nearly 200 families live in the camp of Bahara in Deir Az Zor, where hygiene conditions are very poor; the blue curtain (pictured) shields a communal toilet.

Children in the makeshift camp of Bahara; the lack of humanitarian aid has repercussions on the food availability; the diet of Internally Displaced People (IDP) is lacking the nutrients necessary for daily needs and for the growth of children.

Under a tent in the desert, people displaced from Hajin wait to be identified by the SDF’s intelligence wing to be allowed to enter a temporary IDP camp.

The living conditions in the Hajin camp are difficult; ‘The war is close to inhabited areas, if the influx will continue we will need thousands of tents,’ says Mohammed, who is managing the camp as he fears the number of IDP is growing too fast to offer them dignified shelter.

Subiha’s nephew is in need of medical care; in the camp of Hajin, there are no doctors or ambulances.

With the ongoing war, hundreds of thousands from Deir Az Zor city have been displaced more than two or three times and many still live in the camps of Abu Khashab, Harisha and al-Hol, or in informal settlements without assistance.

‘Here in Harijieh life is very bad,’ says Nassar, a resident who cleans the oil cisterns to support the family; ‘NGOs came twice and brought toothpaste and soap for the laundry… but we need food, medicine, running water, electricity’.

A classroom converted into an apartment in the abandoned school of Harijieh; the diet of IDP is mainly bread and tea.

A man prays on the ground floor of the abandoned school of Harijieh, 80km north of Hajin; 100 people from Deir Az Zor found home in the empty rooms of the building.

Dry aubergines for the winter; food is often donated to the IDP in Harijieh by the SDF soldiers from a nearby military base.

Image: Linda Dorigo/Al Jazeera

Article: Al Jazeera