BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:45 A.M.) – The moment when Syrian Arab Army (SAA) broke the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) siege on Deir ez-Zor was a “triumph,” stated the city’s governor Muhammed Ibrahim Samra, speaking from Deir Ezzor, Wednesday.
Samra said that, when troops reached Deir ez-Zor, “the excitement was at its peak” and that “very fierce clashes” erupted between Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allied forces and IS militants. However, “[Syrian] forces were able to obliterate these enemy forces and reached regiment 137, and lifted the cordon over Deir ez-Zor – it was the moment of triumph,” he continued.
Samra noted that before the IS siege was lifted “the city was suffering darkness,” as no electricity, diesel and gas were available to its citizens. The situation worsened when Deir ez-Zor started experiencing a shortage of personnel in healthcare centres, resulting in patients being forced to be treated in facilities located in other cities.
On Tuesday, SAA units had linked up with the previously-surrounded troops, thus breaking a three-year-long siege of the government-held enclave of Deir ez-Zor, with the help of the SAA Tiger Forces (also known as the Qawat Al-Nimr).
The SAA reached the Brigade 137 base on the western edge of Deir ez-Zor, where a garrison of the Syrian army had been surrounded by IS since 2014.
In recent days, pro-government forces have made rapid advances with tanks and helicopters to push through IS lines. The link-up to the garrison followed days of fierce battles in which the SAA and its allies swiftly seized IS positions. Much of Deir ez-Zor province, including a military air base and a number of towns and villages, remains under IS control.
Deir ez-Zor, which is situated southeast of IS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, has been under siege by IS since 2014.
SOT, Muhammed Ibrahim Samra, Deir ez-Zor governor (Arabic): “Our people in Deir ez-Zor – the patient, the steadfast – and also our army, the units of the Syrian Arab Army, who are on-hold around Deir ez-Zor in dozens of locations initially, who are also here in high morale with the friendly forces, and the police – all of them were fighting and defending Deir ez-Zor.
Actually, everyone knows that there are land forces coming towards Deir ez-Zor to unlock the cordon on this city; its access is through Palmyra-Al Sukhneh-Gabageb-Al Shoula, and another access is from Raqqa, from the desert – south-west Raqqa also to the city.
Generally speaking, our people, whether the heroes of the Syrian Arab Army, who are defending Deir ez-Zor, or all the society elders and young, all of them were waiting for this moment.
When [the troops] met on September 5, at around 2:00 o’clock, the excitement was at its peak, and victory was achieved. The arrival of troops, of course, the troops which reached Deir ez-Zor – there were very fierce clashes on the road heading to the regiment 137, in addition to the asphalt processing. And at the gas factory, there was a resistance by the terrorist organisations to all of the access.
But despite all the circumstances of the clashes and the explosives that the[members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State] ISIS terrorist organisation planted, [Syrian] forces were able to obliterate these enemy forces and reach regiment 137, and lift the cordon over Deir ez-Zor. It was the moment of triumph. So, allow us to say about the siege, that the heroes of the army [came] from the military sector.
As for the civilians, all of them were working in the same frame, each throughout their job: the worker that goes to his factory and the student that goes to his college or to his school under the shells, pressure, and the circumstances. The circumstances were very hard [as for] the circumstances of the siege, which lasted for more than three years in the city of Deir ez-Zor. It is believed to be the longest siege in history.
The city was suffering in darkness: there was no electricity; there was no diesel, no gas. All these circumstances [were there] initially. In addition to healthcare, there are five healthcare centres in the city, and the hospitals of Harabish.
But as for the medicine, there was a shortage of health care staff: a big percentage of our staff are out of the province, to be precise. There were very few surgeons, and despite that, the point of hope was the helicopter that comes to Deir ez-Zor, where the martyrs, injured, wounded, and patients, who [could not undergo] any operation could [only] be [treated] outside Deir ez-Zor due to the shortage of healthcare staff.”