AMMAN: Residents of Deir e-Zor city are fleeing regime-controlled areas for territory held by the Islamic State after enduring seven months of encirclement that has left them with no alternative.
Tens of thousands of civilian lives “are in direct danger because of a lack of food and medicine,” Jalal Hamd, head of the Together to Break the Siege on Deir e-Zor media campaign, told Syria Direct Tuesday.
Seventy-five residents left the regime-controlled al-Joura and al-Qusur neighborhoods on Sunday, on the heels of approximately 7,000 families who fled the same neighborhoods over the past two weeks, reported pro-opposition Smart News Sunday. Regime forces are overlooking past policy and allowing civilians to leave due to the food shortage’s severity, activists say, while holding back men of age for mandatory military service.
The activist Hamd says he believes that propagandistic and monetary factors are behind the regime’s decision not to stop the exodus.
“The regime allowed residents to leave…to show that they are not besieging people as some activists say,” referring to opposition accusations that the Syrian army is preventing humanitarian organizations from using the nearby airport to bring in goods.
Families are required to pay per member in order to exit regime territory, he added.
“By God we only left because of hunger, we want to eat and there’s no food,” an elderly man was quoted as saying in an Islamic State propaganda video released August 9, on the occasion of IS welcoming the incoming Deir e-Zor residents.
After their arrivals, IS soldiers transport residents to the city of Maadan to investigate any possible connections to the regime, reported Smart News.
Many residents end up leaving IS territory because of a lack of work and financial pressures, Abu Mohammed, who lives in a regime-controlled district of Deir e-Zor city, told Syria Direct Tuesday.
The Siyasiya bridge, destroyed in fighting, was the main route into Deir e-Zor’s provincial capital. Photo courtesy of .
Bad to worse
Deir e-Zor city is split between Syrian army and Islamic State control, the latter of which has blockaded regime-held areas since January of this year.
“Some smugglers used to get goods into the besieged [regime] neighborhoods through IS-controlled areas, except that IS executed two smugglers and arrested more, which led to a stop in smuggling activity,” said Abu Mohammed.
Now, regime-affiliated traders bring in supplies once a week through the nearby airport and sell them at highly inflated prices.
A kilogram of sugar costs SP2,500-SP3,000 ($13-16) in regime-controlled areas, Sara, a resident of Deir e-Zor, told Syria Direct Tuesday. It goes for SP160 ($0.85) in IS-controlled areas, according to Smart News.
“As far as residents are concerned, leaving is a necessity because of the siege’s intensity,” said Abu Mohammed, who declined to disclose which district he lives in.
“There’s no hope it will be lifted.”