In Deir ez-Zor, the displacement, collective punishment and threats of ethnic cleansing are accompanying the emir of the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Syria's Kurdish north.
In Shahil, Khisham and the countryside around Deir ez-Zor, 150,000 civilians have fled their homes, in what was a reconciliation and repentance agreement that IS turned into a collective punishment in the villages, which Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Mujahedeen Shura Council had turned into fortified strongholds for the soldiers fighting Baghdadi.
Thousands of displaced [peope] have left for the camps in the desert around the Euphrates. IS forced the population to surrender its weapons, repent for fighting and pledge allegiance to the caliph, Baghdadi. It then added an article to the agreement stipulating that the population leave the towns and villages, to make sure that they were free of any fighters or ambushes. So far, no one has returned from Khisham, although the 10-day time frame given to those who have been forced to leave their houses has ended. The same fate awaits the 83,000 tribal people living in al-Shuaitat. The tribes that renewed their allegiance to Joulani still refuse to leave the villages that Baghdadi warned their population to evacuate.
In Raqqa, thousands of IS fighters are deployed around the Kurdish self-administration region in Ain Arab ("Kobani" in Kurdish). The battle in Kobani is not only about seizing the center of the Kurdish region, and the canton linking the east of the Kurdish region in Amouda, Derbassiyeh, Qamishli and Hasakah to its west in Afrin — the battles fought by Baghdadi’s forces have managed to cleanse the Kurdish villages of their populations, which were estimated at 700,000 in Kobani and its countryside. [Within a] few hours, thousands of Kurds left their homes in the eastern and western countryside of Kobani, of which parts have turned into battlefields. This was while the Baghdadi soldiers executed 16 civilians to force the others to flee. Over the [next] few hours, an alliance consisting of 500 fighters of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Jabhat al-Akrad (the Kurdish Front Brigade) managed to contain the attack by IS fighters.
A source in the PYD said that more than a hundred IS fighters were killed during the counterattack the day before yesterday [June 5] by the elite groups of the PYD and the Kurdish Front Brigade, to restore some of the villages in the region. The IS fighters have made breakthroughs in Zor Maghar, al-Bayyadiyah, Khrab Atou and Cheikhlar Tahtani in western Kobani and advanced in eastern Kobani toward the villages of Susok, Barkno, al-Jalba and James. The villages have been bombarded with more than 3,000 mortar shells in the first wave of attacks, which prompted thousands of residents to flee to the city of Kobani, which is inhabited by 120,000 people.
Yet, the counterattacks may not resolve the battle in Kobani, because the Kurds may not be able to resist the new waves of attacks that are being prepared by IS against the region which determines the future of the whole Kurdish self-administration, and which officials fear.
IS continues to send reinforcements to Kobani from the nearby strongholds in Jarablos, as well as weapons, tanks and rockets that IS seized during its invasion of Iraq. This is why a Kurdish official said it was difficult to oppose these reinforcements and weapons. Remnants of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Free Syrian Army brigades have tried to organize themselves in Kobani, to take part in the fight against IS and Kurds. Yet it is not enough. The Kurds are trying to unite their ranks to confront the threat facing them, by mobilizing new forces, some of which are volunteers from Turkey. This is why the Kurdish National Council, which includes 13 Kurdish parties and competes with the PYD, called on Kurds to forget the past, unite their ranks and counter the danger of the Islamic State.
The Islamic State aims to separate the east from the west of the Kurdish region in a single operation by seizing its center, Kobani, which is on the border with Turkey. If it succeeds in seizing Kobani, cards will be shuffled in northern Syria and western Iraq. The Islamic State will be able to control the entire Upper Mesopotamia in the Syrian Desert, after taking over the Iraqi side. Then, it will be able to deploy forces along the Euphrates basin, its Syrian and Iraqi dams, power plants, installations and water distribution plants from the Turkish border, through Syria, and even the west of Iraq. In addition, it will control agricultural activities from the basin, defeat the surrounding towns, the economy and clans, rearrange alliances according to its interests, and get new human and economic resources.
By seizing Upper Mesopotamia, IS will expand to Minkar al-Batta, in the oil-rich town of Ramalan, which is controlled by the Kurds, to unite all Syrian oil wells under its banner, which is equivalent to the production of 350,000 barrels of oil per day.
The oil fields in the region do not seem to be an objective of Baghdadi alone, according to a Kurdish official there. He said that peshmerga forces, affiliated with the president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, were stationed in an area near Ramalan, where the Kurdish Democratic Union entered. The Kurdish official added that the operation that was carried out by IS in Iraq would not have happened without the support of Turkey, as “we have noticed the flow of hundreds of fighters through the Turkish border toward Raqqa in Syria, in the days prior to the attack of IS on Mosul.”
IS will be able to control more than 300 kilometers [186 miles] of the Syrian-Turkish border, to link it in Jarablos in the west to the east of Tel Abyad, to progress toward Ras al-Ain, and to threaten Amouda and Derbassiyeh. The Turks will have to coexist directly with IS forces, since the direct results of this operation will be a threat to the progress of the Syrian army around Aleppo and its eastern countryside, where its works on tightening the siege on the eastern parts of the city, after it enters the industrial area in the northeast of the city. Syrian aircraft had begun to intensify their air operations against IS centers in Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa.
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