October 2, 2014
Since commencing airstrikes across Syria over one week ago, the US-led international coalition has focused heavily on the Islamic State (IS) controlled Iraqi border town of Al-Bokamel, which sits between Syria’s Deir e-Zor and Iraq’s Anbar provinces.
IS combatants acted immediately to minimize their losses – not by withdrawing, but by hiding in residential areas.
“The Islamic State didn’t retreat, but rather withdrew its forces from some exposed locations,” Abu Zeid Abdullah, a media activist located in a village near Al-Bokamel, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.
The State quickly adapted to the reality of the bombings, by “constantly changing the locations of its fighters,” the activist says, and has made no move to leave Al-Bokamel.
IS “undertook a tactical withdrawal—they didn’t retreat.”
Translation by Syria Direct’s Dan Wilkofsky.
Q: Has the Islamic State (IS) retreated [from Al-Bokamel] because of airstrikes from the international coalition?
To be honest, throughout the airstrikes IS didn’t retreat, but rather withdrew its forces from some exposed locations, those that weren’t strategically important. They also withdrew from those fixed checkpoints that were situated in unprotected locales. They were satisfied with putting a few guards around those locations.
They resorted to entering and hiding in residential areas
As I said, they undertook a tactical withdrawal—they didn’t retreat.
Syrian border town of Al-Bokamel. Photo courtesy of French Foreign Ministry, Geography Department.
Q: What are the areas that are being bombed most heavily in Al-Bokamel, and why?
Most of the targets struck by coalition bombs in Al-Bokamel are military in nature. Al-Bokamel is a border zone; IS has a number of military sites there—lots of checkpoints.
The bombing focused in the beginning on these checkpoints, then targeted the headquarters and military camps. Then the bombing targeted oil fields and refineries.
Q: What is IS doing in Al-Bokamel in order to avoid these airstrikes?
IS is trying to constantly change the locations of its fighters. Its fighters move on rotation from one place to another. They avoid moving heavy equipment, and moving in visible columns. They’ve also entered residential areas.
Q: How are civilians doing in Al-Bokamel in light of the coalition strikes? Are there any statistics on the number of dead or wounded?
As far as civilians—they’re living in a state of terror and apprehension because of the strikes, especially since IS has started to relocate within residential districts. So they’ve become afraid of random strikes, and have fled, evacuated their homes that are close to IS positions or headquarters.
There is little movement in the market—most daily business operations and personal businesses have shut down, especially after the coalition targeted oil refineries, which had a hugely negative impact on the families [of Al-Bokamel]. Since the refineries were destroyed, there has been a noticeable lack of fuels—gas, diesel.
Several towns and villages in Deir e-Zor have suffered, for two days now, from a lack of these resources, and consequently a huge rise in their prices. So all businesses which relied on these resources have shut down.
As for statistics around dead and wounded civilians: Nine dead in the western outskirts of Deir e-Zor. We have 23 wounded from these airstrikes in various areas in Deir e-Zor and its outskirts.
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