Does Assad or ISIS control eastern Raqqa?

Abdalaziz Alhamza “RBSS”

During the battle between ISIS and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) inside the city of Raqqa, Assad regime forces managed to advance in the eastern countryside of Raqqa, south the Euphrates river. In a few days, these forces controlled several villages and towns in the eastern countryside of Raqqa and reached Ma’adan – the last town before entering Deir ez-Zor administrative areas. This advance came after heavy bombardment over the area launched by Russian warplanes.

It is worth mentioning that these villages and towns have been out of regime control since the beginning of 2013. However, this initial advance did not last, as in the past few days, ISIS announced that they have managed to regain control over several sites including Al Ghanem Alali, Zor Shammar, Bu Hamed, Mugla, and Salem Hamad. During this take over, at least a hundred militants from Assad’s forces were killed.

The regime had two objectives behind this operation, one of which is a military one aimed at controlling villages and towns in the eastern countryside of Raqqa in order to then advance into Deir ez-Zor province. The other objective is a political one, as the regime hopes to prove with these actions it’s aim was to fight terrorism.

In this battle and several other battles, the regime had taken advantage of the tribal society in the areas to form what is known as “The Tribal Army” – this time led by Turki Bu Hamid who was tasked with recruiting as many people as possible from the local area to fight. Similarly, the regime chose a governor for Raqqa and even an education directorate based in Sabkha and demanded all teachers from Raqqa travel to Sabkha to receive their salaries. All this was attempt to gain more control and legitimacy in the area.

All regime plans went awry in just two days. The terrorist group ISIS regained control over several villages and towns in the area during a remarkable absence of the Russian warplanes which had been a main supporter of the regime’s initial advance. ISIS’ surprising advance and the SDF’s military movements give the impression that there is a secret agreement between the US and Russian administrations that the east parts of Syria will be under the US control.

media activist from the city of Raqqa, student at the Faculty of Law at the University of the Euphrates. Director of the Media Office of Raqqa, founding member of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently", founding member of the documentary project of "Sound and Picture". I work in documenting violations committed by Assad's regime and ISIS group and extremist organizations inside the city of Raqqa, as I work in programming, design and visual media. I hold a certificate of coach in digital security, and a certificate of journalist coach, and a certificate in documenting violations against human rights, and a certificate in electronic advocacy. I underwent a training under the supervision of "Cyber-Arabs" in collaboration with the Institute for War and Peace "IWPR", about the management of electronic websites and leadership of advocacy campaigns, and a training of press photography under the supervision of the photojournalist "Peter Hove Olesen".