Military Review

Syria's leading edge: the city of Deir ez-Zor


Deir ez-Zor, perhaps the most under-lit Syrian city in the media. After the beginning of the civil war, most of the city was mainly controlled by the Free Syrian Army, and then in early July it was taken under control by militants of the Islamic State. Subsequently, in order to surround the city, the Republican Guard launched an attack on their positions. In early December, Islamic state militants attempted to make a breakthrough in the direction of the air base in Deir-ez-Zor - a vital object of the city’s livelihood.

Perhaps Deir ez-Zor is best known for its oil fields; in the initial stages, most of the clashes around the city represented a struggle for control over these strategically important objects. Since the oil fields supplied the Syrian Arab Army (CAA), the Republican Guard, the National Defense Forces (FNL) and the Suqur al-Sahara unit (desert falcons), their seizure more than a year ago was a serious blow to all forces loyal to Assad, who supplied jeopardizing the supply of fuel, which is very necessary for the organization of new attacks. Although Russian contract servicemen from the Slavonic corps were originally sent to protect these deposits, they were unable to reach even the city of Deir ez-Zor.

Declining fuel supplies are already causing widespread tank trailers, since there is simply not enough fuel for the tanks to independently travel to their deployment areas. The situation will not improve until the fields around Deir ez-Zor are taken under the control of government forces.

There are several reasons that explain why there are still a fairly large number of pro-government groups in the city of Deir ez-Zor. First, in early 2014, the military contingent in Deir ez-Zor was reinforced by units of the 104th Republican Guard Brigade, led by Brigadier General Issam Zahreddin. Secondly, the air base is still in the hands of the government. This is very important for the supply of the city, in addition, fighters based on it, have a significant aviation support to troops fighting in and around the city. Third, the Damascus – Palmyra – Deir ez-Zor highway remains under government control. This highway is used to deliver reinforcements and supplies to the city. And finally, the hill above the city remains in the hands of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The SAA deployed a large number of howitzers, field guns and multiple launch rocket systems, which can fire at any targets in the city, and also cover approaches to the air base.

Syria's leading edge: the city of Deir ez-Zor

The 104 Brigade of the Republican Guard was initially deployed to the city of Aleppo to launch new attacks in the hope of returning some of the positions handed over to and around Aleppo, but was transferred to Deir-ez-Zor at the beginning of 2014 of the year to strengthen the remaining CAA garrison. It is not known whether the entire 104 Brigade or only part of it was transferred to Deir-ez-Zor. Since the number of Republican Army fighters in Deir ez-Zor remains small, the latter seems more likely. The contingent currently deployed in the city of Deir-ez-Zor is headed by Issam Zahreddin of the Druze community and undoubtedly the most popular general in Syria. The reason for his popularity is that he personally leads his soldiers into battle, is always on the front line and shares the same privileges with the soldiers, even if it is, for example, landing in the BMP-1, advancing to the front line.

104 is sometimes referred to as the 104 Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard, and while a small number of soldiers in the brigade were really trained in what could be called a parachute, and one deployed from low-flying helicopters, it is believed that the 104 Brigade is “airborne” only in name, while possessing all the characteristic features of a mechanized brigade. The fact that the Syrian military doctrine does not provide for airborne operations reinforces this theory.

However, the contingent deployed to Deir-ez-Zor managed to get only a limited number of obsolete T-72 Urals, T-72M1, BMP-1 and several ZSU-23 from other units. A pair of Falaq-2 launchers is also in its arsenal. The 104 Brigade, which employs T-72 tanks in Deir ez-Zor, also deployed tanks of this type for the first time in the city, while the 137 Mechanized Brigade only operates T-55 tanks.

During the first combat operations in Damascus, the 104 Brigade had several T-72 tanks equipped with the TURMS-T system (the most modern tanks in Syria), but apparently they were all forwarded to another unit of the Republican Guard. While the brigade lacks a large number of modern tanks, it received a large batch of Sayyad-2 and AK-74M large-caliber sniper rifles, the most modern machine guns in Syria.

It is not surprising that a significant number of Druze fighters are attracted to the service in the 104 Brigade. Presumably, the squad of bodyguards Issam Zahreddin also, for the most part, consists of the Druze. The need for bodyguards is due to its great popularity in Syria, and more importantly, the reward for its head in 200 000 dollars.

The 104 Brigade entered Deir-ez-Zor with two important tasks: ensuring the safety of the airbase by ousting the militants of the Islamic state and surrounding them in the city center, after which a new attack on the oil fields could begin. The first goal after the arrival of 104 was pretty fast. After the fall of Tabka, Zakhreddin remarked: “The air base at Deir ez-Zor is not Tabq air base. We will bury the Islamic state here. ”

The composition of the ground forces that previously operated in Deir-ez-Zor was limited to the 137 mechanized brigade, which had already lost most of its combat power and tanks in two years of heavy fighting, but still retained control over several parts of the city and strategic heights. . Together with the National Defense Forces (FNL), formed from civilians, reservists and a small part of active military personnel, they were busy defending the remaining parts of the city and the air base and did not have the strength to start independent attacking actions.

The strength of the 104 Brigade, deployed at Deir ez-Zor, was quite small and therefore the fighters were forced to carefully balance their forces in order to repel any attacks from the flanks during their own offensive actions. So, while most of the 104 Brigade was thrown into the attack, part of it was distributed around the perimeter of the city to reinforce the CAA and NSO soldiers already deployed there. The battles that took place in the city center were very fierce. Violent local clashes took place on both sides, there were long battles for apartment buildings, when neither side could actually advance. Islamic state militants also actively used tunnels, and some of them were eventually destroyed. The CAA and the NSS could count on the support of artillery from the nearby hills, which later destroyed most of the city. But sometimes this support went sideways, because due to the close proximity of both sides, artillery fire sometimes led to losses in the CAA. A video of the fighting in the city of Deir-ez-Zor can be seen here.

The press had little coverage of the offensive, the purpose of which was to cut off the center of the city from the territory held by the Islamic state on the opposite side of the river. The brigade was divided into two parts, which attacked from different directions.

As you can see on the map, one part attacked from the side of Al Filat, and the other part forced the river to the island of Sakr. In contrast to the battles in the city, the battle for the island of Sakr was conducted among dense thickets of trees, bushes and crops. Video of the fights on this island here.

During the fighting, Issam Zakhreddin used tactics that the CAA and the NSO could only dream of, especially in the early stages of the civil war in Syria. T-72 tanks advanced, infantry followed, covered with other T-72 and ZSU-23 tanks, infantry cleaned buildings, again received support from T-72 tanks and self-propelled ZSU-23 anti-aircraft systems, and the process was repeated again and again. This tactic contrasts sharply with the tactics of the early days of the Civil War, when tanks were used as rams breaking through the city, often resulting in victims of RPG fire. One of the T-72M1 tanks deployed in Deir-ez-Zor can be seen in the photo below. The flag on the right belongs to the Druze community.

The ultimate goal of the Al Filat-Saqr offensive was to surround the militants of the Islamic state in Deir ez-Zor itself, after which 104 could launch a new offensive in order to bring back the debris scattered around Deir ez-Zor. The battle for the city can be assigned to the CAA, the FNL and the new militias called the National Security Service. Those who have not entered the service in the SSA or the NSO will be recruited to this service, and they will be trained on the basis of the 137-th mechanized brigade.

The negative point in this attack for the CAA, the FNL and the 104 Brigade was that it would reveal even weaker flanks. Since these forces were already stretched in the form of a thin line, sooner or later the Islamic state would try to take advantage of this situation.

Although some suggest that the attack on the airbase is a direct consequence of the stalemate in Kobani, when another victory was needed, but this assumption could be questioned, since the Queberes air base would be better suited for a quick victory. Kveres, the Syrian Air Force’s main training base in the past, was captured in December 2012 and currently represents nothing more than a runway littered with aircraft remains, with units that only have enough power to defend this base.

The air base in Deir-ez-Zor is the home base of the 8 Squadron of the Syrian Air Force, which is armed with MiG-21 fighter jets. About a dozen decommissioned MiG-21 fighters can be seen in a satellite image, which suggests the conclusion that the 8 Squadron received several MiG-21 aircraft from other Syrian squadrons in order to remain in combat formation. The 8 Squadron also lost several aircraft as a result of attacks by groups with anti-tank missile systems that destroyed at least two MiG-21 in fortified aircraft shelters. This forced the Syrian air force to hide most of its aircraft behind shelters dug out of the sand.

Mi-8 / 17, Mi-25 helicopters and even MiG-23BN fighters are also regularly deployed in the city of Deir-ez-Zor. In addition, the 104 Brigade can call the 819 Squadron, which recently received an upgraded SU-24M2 capable of conducting high-precision attacks. These planes are often seen in the sky above the city of Deir ez-Zor.

Four launchers of ground-to-air missiles 2K12 Kub, which protected the air base and the city, were initially deployed to Deir-ez-Zor. While one of them was destroyed by the Free Syrian Army while retreating to its position, and another was put out of action by an Islamic state (one of the captured broken launchers can be seen in the photo below), two are still controlled by Syrian troops. One of these two installations, unfortunately, is only partially operational.

The Damascus – Palmyra – Deir ez-Zor highway, along which the 104 Brigade was deployed to the city of Deir ez-Zor, also remains under government control; it turned out to be vital for the city and was called the “second road of life”. Transport supply columns use this road to supply the CAA, the NSO and the 104 Brigade with supplies, since it is a cheaper alternative to the air bridge of the Syrian Air Force, along which the An-26 and IL-76 transporters fly.

To keep this road, the strategic airbase and the surrounding heights is very important for the SSA, the NSO and the 104 Brigade, which are located in and around the city of Deir-ez-Zor. Previously captured positions can be left in order to free up forces for the defense of the air base in Deir ez-Zor. Since the CAA, the NSO and the 104 Brigade control the surrounding hills, they can cause air and artillery support, which may be enough to guarantee their presence in the city of Deir ez-Zor.

But since the size of the offensive of the Islamic state remains unknown, it is not yet possible to judge at the moment whether the militants will launch a large-scale offensive aimed at dislodging Assad's troops from Deir ez-Zor once and for all, or they are simply trying to defend the SSA, FSS and 104-th Brigade around the airbase, hoping to seize positions in the neighboring areas of Jaffra and Al-Maria for direct shelling of the runway, making it impossible for Syrian air forces to use it. It is also possible that this attack is a distraction maneuver before a future offensive, aimed at capturing some of the positions lost in the past months, and as a result, at preventing a possible environment.

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  1. Same lech
    Same lech April 1 2015 05: 52
    Very informative article.

    However, the impression was ... that the war did not see the end and the edge ....
    ASADA troops are mostly engaged in defensive battles ... his opponent, after yet another bloody attack and defeat, having no strength for the offensive, continues to accumulate strength ... and this process goes in a circle.
    1. KAB
      KAB April 1 2015 14: 40
      This is not entirely true, in the Lebanese direction, in Aleppo, in Al-Hasak, in Homs, the SAA has good success. The United States began a spring campaign in several points in the Middle East at once, in Syria and Yemen, but the army mostly withstood the wave of attacks by militants in Syria, the militants took most of Idlib (moreover, there were a darkness of sleeping cells in the city, which stabbed the armies in the back). but their offensive was still stopped, the army regrouped, took several heights around the city and was preparing to knock out the militants. This war will not end quickly, Bashar can mobilize hundreds of thousands of fighters, but money is needed for their maintenance, training, weapons, and the country is in ruins, in turn, the West finances the militants and the sea of ​​cannon fodder, the border with Turkey is mostly controlled by militants ... Syria badly needs to update its combat aircraft fleet, the resource of current machines is melting, Iran has a second front in Yemen, Russia is hot in the underbelly, these are all links of the same chain. In the spring, in the summer, it can get hot both here and here, until the states are "calm down", all this will continue.
      1. Talgat
        Talgat April 1 2015 19: 15
        Quote: KAB
        Iran has a second front in Yemen, Russia is hot in the underbelly, these are all links of the same chain

        I agree, like there are many conflicts in different places and at first glance they are not connected

        But there is a feeling that all these conflicts are closely related and, in fact, there are 2 sides everywhere - on the one hand the United States with Europe, the Saudis and the Cathars, the Wahhabists bearded, and so on.

        And on the other, Syria with Iran, Bolivarian countries, the Russian Federation with the CSTO, China

        The world has already divided into 2 camps and it seems that many have already chosen who with whom
        1. Korvin1000
          Korvin1000 17 January 2017 21: 58
          However, both thoughtfully and competently.
          First, a strike on Palmyra, so that they could not go to the rear, and then a powerful blow to Deir ez-Zor.
          And Deir-ez-Zor has practically nothing to help, Hezbollah’s 200-300 people do not count, they can’t influence against 14000 DAISHs.
          When the close bombs are not particularly thrown bombs.
          In general, the only way out is a strong rapid attack on Palmyra, otherwise everything.
          Further after the capture of Deir ez-Zor, these 14000 will be freed and then Palmyra or Raqqa.
          But the most important thing is that this territory will pass to the Americans, and they will be able to break through this business. And then they will be able to build the Kattar-Turkey-Europe gas pipeline. And these are our interests.
    2. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh April 1 2015 16: 50
      Assad had a respite.
      IG units a year ago went to fight in Iraq to capture
      large cities.
      Now the Iraqi army (Shiites) and the Iranian army (plus bombs
      Americans and Europeans) begin to knock out IS from the cities of Iraq.
      The robbers are returning to Syria.
      If the Syrian army is not re-equipped and understaffed,
      then their successes will be crossed out.
      1. spiolist pas harp
        spiolist pas harp April 2 2015 10: 42
        Quote: voyaka uh
        If the Syrian army is not re-equipped and understaffed,
        then their successes will be crossed out.
        Alex, thanks hi It's nice to read the opinion of a resident of the "promised land" about "Arab" "showdowns" without emotional chauvinism.
        Looking at the photo of the destroyed high-rise buildings, one involuntarily realizes that even for more than six months, the shelled Pervomaiskeshche and tolerably lives ...
  2. Aslan
    Aslan April 1 2015 06: 15
    "Although Russian
    corps contractors
    Slavonic were originally
    sent to protect these
    deposits, they failed
    get even to the city of Deir ez
    Zor. "- an interesting detail ...
    1. m13urah1
      m13urah1 April 1 2015 10: 55
      A muddy story ...
  3. Aasdem
    Aasdem April 1 2015 07: 05
    Syria needs a federation! This will give full support to Assad of the Druze Kurds and most of the Sunni Arabs. the rest will be "digested" without the support of the local population.
    Unfortunately, three civil wars (Lebanon since 1979, in Syria, Iraq) are the consequences of the division of territories by the colonialists - France and England, who originally planted a "bomb" in these countries, as in many others - they formed "hodgepodge" countries from various difficult interacting forces.
  4. 501Legion
    501Legion April 1 2015 08: 20
    How sick for the Syrian people. I hope with the support of the Syrians will stand as stood before this for hundreds of years. and defeat fanatics and terrorists.
    if the world would support the Syrians then for a long time there would be no needles or war. but everyone understands from where this monster’s legs grow
  5. bolat19640303
    bolat19640303 April 1 2015 08: 48
    Russian assistance to the friendly people of Syria is visible in the photo. Assad’s victory in Syria is a victory not only at the regional level. She will not allow the hydra of obscurantism to creep around the world.
  6. Almatinets
    Almatinets April 1 2015 10: 29
    oh, Pinocchio yes Terminators would go there
  7. Velizariy
    Velizariy April 1 2015 10: 48
    Everyone is calling on Russia to take part in the fight against IS, so you can take part! TOSI can be delivered to the Syrians, you can also send the Smerch MLRS, the Su-34 to work out skills, you can also the Su-25 with the Mi-24, or even a little Mi 28 and use the "instructors" ... But! not interacting with sworn partners, but only with the Syrians. Pilots will gain combat experience.
  8. crasever
    crasever April 1 2015 12: 45
    Alla !! Suria !!! Bashar at the bass !!!
    1. padded jacket
      padded jacket April 1 2015 13: 48
      The Syrians are great fellows, real fighters, for more than 4 years they have been fighting against bands of candy wrappers - terrorists sent against their Motherland by the regimes of the USA, Israel, the P-Z monarchies and other sponsors of the "killers" and their skill, determination and morale are only getting stronger.
      I wish you successes valiant heroes and quickly defeat the gangs of these mercenaries together with other fighters against terrorism such as Iran, Hezbollah and courageous volunteers fighting in your ranks.
  9. Petrik66
    Petrik66 April 1 2015 16: 51
    Assad Syrians are fighting for themselves and their families, which will make soulmates understandable to them. But the weapons are not very new - here we must help. And the wounded need to be taken out for rehabilitation. Then reward us.
  10. tilix
    tilix April 1 2015 21: 20
    You gentlemen, you are not looking there, while you are writing victorious reports here, ISIS took the YaRMUK, and this is a half hour drive from Assad's residence. The commander of the Palestinian detachments was killed:
  11. Samarskiy
    Samarskiy April 9 2015 16: 29
    Sorry for Syria. It was a good country. Now there will be a variation on the theme of Afghanistan.