BEIRUT: Syrian rebels called on regional backers for help to fight the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria as it bolstered its siege of the city of Deir al-Zor.
“The Supreme Military Council calls on all friendly and brotherly Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan, to give aid to the brigades on the ground in Deir al-Zor province so they can confront the terrorist ISIS organization,” the Free Syrian Army said in a statement Wednesday.
The fighting in the oil-rich province has pitted ISIS against its Al-Qaeda rival the Nusra Front, Islamist militias, and mainstream FSA groups. Observers and anti-regime activists have criticized the Syrian authorities for failing to devote effort to battling ISIS militants in several areas they control.
The violence has killed more than 630 people in 40 days and displaced more than 130,000 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-regime group.
ISIS has totally encircled Deir al-Zor, activists said.
“They have surrounded the city. There are no entrances or exits left for people to flee,” said an activist in the region known as Salar. The information was confirmed by a second activist who is based near the city.
ISIS-controlled territory runs some 283 kilometers eastward across the Euphrates River, from the city of Raqqa to the town of Busaira in Deir al-Zor province, said an activist using the name Abu Abdullah. From there, the group is some 101 kilometers from the town of Al-Bukamal on the Iraqi border.
In the province of Aleppo, a rebel coalition announced a new push to dislodge ISIS fighters from their strongholds in the towns of Manbij and al-Bab and surrounding villages.
Details on the new offensive remain scarce but one of the groups in the coalition, the Islamic Front, claimed that its fighters recently captured four villages from ISIS and killed 17 of its fighters.