Daesh militants have reportedly murdered scores of people in attacks on government-held areas near the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor on Saturday. Al Arabiya reports that Syrian state media says as many as 250 to 300 people may have died in the Daesh massacre, including Syrian soldiers and their families, as well as civilians.
If confirmed, the massacre would be one of the highest death tolls for a single day in Syria’s already deadly five-year civil war. According to locals, the mass murders were carried out execution-style, though some of the casualties were beheaded. Sputnik International quoted a local source in describing the murders, saying the group continues killing whole families.
“The horrific massacre carried out today by ISIL militants in al-Bagilya in Deir ez-Zor. 280 victims, including women, children and old people. Reason — cooperation with the Syrian army.”
At least 35 Syrian soldiers were also killed during the fighting, in which fighters of the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist organization, also called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, ISIL), advanced to the northern tip of the historic Syrian city and captured the suburban neighborhood of Al-Baghaliyeh. Though the Syrian Arab Army inflicted heavy losses on Daesh, the Islamic extremist group may have gained control of as much as 60 percent of Deir ez-Zor, with the Syrian government holding the rest.
Al Arabiya quoted Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organization that monitors violence in the Syrian Civil War.
“We have 60 people confirmed killed, but the number is big. The details are hard to get so far but the deaths are in dozens.”
The Guardian reported at least 85 civilians and 50 government troops dead, and further quotes the Syrian media outlet, SANA, as saying up to 300 civilians were killed. The Daesh attack included six suicide bombings, according to Abdulrahman in Al Arabiya.
“They sent six suicide bombers first and they tried to break into military positions but they failed.”
Prime Minister Wael al-Halaq of Syria was also quoted as saying “legal and moral responsibility for this barbaric and cowardly massacre… lies on the shoulders of all the states that support terrorism and that fund and arm takfiri [Sunni extremist] groups.”
The city of Deir ez-Zor is the capital of the province of the same name, an oil-producing region rich with history and bordering Iraq. As of now, it is mostly held by Daesh. The Syrian government has managed to hold onto portions of the provincial capital city and the nearby military airport, despite repeated attacks by Daesh.
Russian warplanes flew nearby, and heavy airstrikes were carried out against the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa in support of Syrian government forces. Russian airstrikes near Aleppo will also be utilized by the Syrian government to seize territory back from Daesh fighters. As of now, the Syrian government has over seven battlefronts open in Aleppo province against the terrorist insurgency.
Daesh has laying siege to government-controlled areas of the city for more than a year. More than 200,000 civilians in the area remain in dire conditions and lack access to food and medicine, with Daesh attacking the city on an almost daily basis.
Daesh supporters also took to social media to claim the group had captured an army weapons depot and even a few tanks. However, these reports have not been independently verified.
The Syrian army notably had to remove the extensive collection of ancient historical artifacts from the Deir ez-Zor museum last year in the face of Islamist advances. Deir ez-Zor was also the home for the famous Armenian Genocide Martyrs’ Memorial before the complex was destroyed with explosives by Daesh on September 21, 2014.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]