Deir ez-Zor offensive (January 2016)

Deir ez-Zor offensive (January 2016)
Part of the Syrian Civil War and the
Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War

The situation in Deir ez-Zor as of August 29      Syrian Government control     ISIS control
Date16–21 January 2016
(5 days)
LocationDeir ez-Zor, Deir ez-Zor Governorate, Syria

ISIL victory

  • ISIL captures the northern suburbs of Deir Ez-zor city including Al-Bughayliyah, Ayyash[6] and the Al Mari'iyah Farms[7]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syrian Arab Republic

Russia Russian Armed Forces

Commanders and leaders
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Hamza Al-Ansari
  (ISIL Deir ez-Zor emir)[9]
Abu Hadhefah Al-Maghrabi  [10]
(ISIL field commander)
Syria Lt. General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub
Syria Maj. Gen. Issam Zahreddine[11]
(Republican Guard commander)
Syria Brig. Gen. Yassin Mahmoud Hamoud  [12]
Syria Yarob Zahreddine (Commander in 104th Airborne Brigade)
Units involved
Military of ISIL

Republican Guard:

  • 104th Airborne Brigade[8]

17th Reserve Division:

  • 137th Artillery Brigade[13]
up to 2,000[14] 4,000[15]
Casualties and losses
110+ killed [8][16] 200 killed (48 executed)[16]
129–300 civilians killed, ~400 civilians kidnapped[2][16]

The Deir ez-Zor offensive (January 2016) was an ISIL military operation, during which it took over the northern suburbs of Deir ez-Zor on 16 January 2016, and killed from 135 to 300 people, while also kidnapping about 400 others.[1]


Further information: Syrian Civil War

In 2011, the Syrian Civil War began after an uprising against president Bashar al-Assad. The rebels took over Deir ez-Zor governorate except for about half of Deir ez-Zor city which stayed in the hands of the government. However, in 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over all the areas formerly held by the rebels. Since that time, ISIL have tried repeatedly to take over the remaining part of Deir ez-Zor city.

The offensive

Initial assault and massacre

On 16 January 2016, ISIL militants launched an overnight raid on Deir ez-Zor. In the initial fighting, at least 35 Syrian Arab Army soldiers and allied militia fighters were killed. The group used "six suicide bombers first and they tried to break into military positions but they failed," according to the government. An unnamed Syrian source added that the group "carried out several assaults" on the day.

After parts of the city were overrun by ISIL, pro-government fighters and their families were among those attacked in the neighborhoods of Baghiliya and Ayyash. The Syrian government and state media said that 250[17]-300[18] people were killed, including some by beheading;[17] the British-based SOHR had differing numbers from 135 fatalities[18] to what it issued in a statement that read: "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." It further noted the army and pro-government deaths as well. The government death toll was given at 49[19] soldiers killed.[20] Unnamed social media supporters of the group claimed it had captured an army weapons depot and seized tanks, although this was not independently confirmed.[17] SOHR added that ISIL kidnapped about 400 civilians from families of pro-government fighters. "There is genuine fear for their lives, there is a fear that the group might execute them as it has done before in other areas."[21] "Abu Hamza Al-Ansari”, a top ISIL commander in the province was killed during an ISIS offensive on Ayyash and Al-Bughayliyah by the 104th Airborne Brigade.[9]

ISIL forces continued to advance on areas held by the Syrian Government north west of Deir ez-Zor City, taking areas south and west of Baghiliya.[21]

Attempted counterattack

Counter-strikes by Russian Air Force fighter jets, in support of Syrian army forces, were reported[18] to take back the areas. Around 60 ISIL fighters were killed in airstrikes, according to the Russian defense ministry.[22]

On 19 January, ISIL launched a new offensive against government territory, taking advantage of a dust storm that all but grounded Russian warplanes.[23] Over 80 ISIS fighters were killed while battling government forces in the Al-Baghayliyah District. 75-82 government soldiers (11 of them from the NDF) and 12 pro-government Shaytat tribesmen also died.[8] On the next day, a pro-government source claimed government forces recaptured the Saiqa Camp, the Tal Kroum hilltop and the Ayyash weapons depot.[24] However, subsequent reports confirmed they were still ISIL-held.[3][5] Later on 20 January, the Al-Baghaliyeh district also fell to ISIL[23] and the jihadists took the Missile Battalion Base, south of Deir Ezzor,[4] and the Al Mari'iyah farms.[7] Earlier in the day, a Russian air force operation delivered 50 tonnes of humanitarian aid to civilians in Al-Baghaliyeh.[25] The advances left ISIL in control of at least 60% of Deir ez-Zor city. At this time, ISIL released 270 of the 400 civilians kidnapped over the weekend.[23][25]

On 21 January, the Syrian army launched an offensive against the Baghiliya district,[26] with 11 soldiers being killed.[27]


On 22 January, Russian airstrikes killed 44 in ISIL-controlled Tala'a district[28] and the following day, further airstrikes killed 63 in Khasam.[28]

On 26 January, six civilians were killed by a mortar round and a Syrian Arab Army Brigade General was killed.[12]

On 28 January, ISIL launched an offensive against Al-Baghayliyah District in order to seize the Al-Rawad Hill, Al-Jazeera University, and Firat Al-Sham Hotel. The attack was cut short by Syrian and Russian Air Force airstrikes.[13] On 30 January, ISIL launched an attack along the Cinema Fouad Street inside the Al-Rashidiyah District and against the Al-Haweeqa District.[29]

On 11 March, the Syrian Arab Army’s Central Command announced their intention to lift ISIS's siege of Deir ez-Zor by capturing Palmyra and the Palmyra-Deir ez-Zor highway.[15]

On 18 May, the Syrian Army claimed that over 200 ISIS militants had been killed after a government assault in the western district of the besieged city. However, this number is disputed by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights who give a more conservative estimate of 50 ISIS militants killed.[30]


Syrian Arab Army casualties were 200 killed, of whom 48 were executed by ISIL. 110 ISIL fighters had also died, including 30 suicide bombers.[31]


An unnamed branch of the Syrian government condemned the "horrific massacre against the residents of Baghiliya in Deir al-Zor".[32]

See also


  1. 1 2 "At least 300 killed in Islamic State 'massacre' in Syrian city, state media says". Fox News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Islamic State abducts 400 civilians in Syria, monitor says". SMH. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  3. 1 2 jack. "Violent Clashes continue in Der-Ezzor fronts". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  4. 1 2 "ISIS launches new attack on the Deir Ezzor Airport". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Hassan Ridha". Twitter. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  6. "ISIS launches a massive offensive in northwestern Deir Ezzor". Al-Masdar. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Russian Air Force pounds ISIS all over Deir Ezzor". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Leith Fadel (19 January 2016). "Tuesday death toll for ISIS rises over 80 in Deir Ezzor". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  9. 1 2 Leith Fadel (17 January 2016). "Top ISIS commander in Deir Ezzor killed by the Syrian Army". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  10. "ISIS offensive in northwestern Deir Ezzor fails again". Al-Masdar. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  11. Paul Antonopoulos (20 January 2016). "General Zahreddine alive in Deir Ez-Zor (Video)". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  12. 1 2 " - While you were sleeping...". Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  13. 1 2 " - ISIS retreats after sustaining heavy losses in Deir Ezzor". Retrieved 28 January 2016.
  14. "Russian Air Force strikes ISIS around Deir ez-Zor". RT International. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  15. 1 2 Fadel, Leith. Syrian Army, Hezbollah plan to liberate Deir Ezzor after Palmyra. Al-Masdar News. 12 March 2016.
  16. 1 2 3 "About 440 killed and executed during the past 5 days in Der-Ezzor". Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  17. 1 2 3 "Islamic State kills dozens in Syria's Deir al-Zor city - monitor and a source". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 "Syria conflict: Conflicting accounts of Deir al-Zour attack". BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  19. " - ISIS offensive has been officially repelled in Deir Ezzor". Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  20. "Deir Ezzor: Hundreds may be dead after ISIS abductions -". CNN. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  21. 1 2 "ISIS Captures Government-Held Ground in Eastern Syria". The New York Times. 19 January 2016.
  22. "Russia kills 60 militants in Deir ez-Zor, where ISIS massacred hundreds of civilians". RT International. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  23. 1 2 3 "Islamic State releases 270 civilians kidnapped in Syria's east: monitor". ABC News. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  24. "Syrian Army recaptures several sites in Deir Ezzor". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  25. 1 2 "Russian air force strikes besieged Syrian city, delivers aid". Yahoo News. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  26. "IS captures new areas from troops in eastern Syria".
  27. "Syrian Army strikes back in Deir Ezzor: Tal Barouk captured". Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  28. 1 2 "Scores die in suspected Russian strikes in Syria's east". Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  29. " - ISIS suffers over 60 casualties in failed Deir Ezzor offensive". Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  30. "Syrian army kills over 200 ISIS militants". Al-Masdar news agency. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  31. "Hundreds dead as ISIS makes gains in strategic Syrian city -". CNN. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  32. "'Islamic State militants kidnap 400 civilians from Syria's Deir al-Zor city'". The Economic Times.

Coordinates: 35°20′00″N 40°09′00″E / 35.3333°N 40.1500°E / 35.3333; 40.1500

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