Residents of Deir ez-Zor fear potential Israeli-Iranian escalation

By Omar Abdurrahman

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria (North Press) – Residents of Deir ez-Zor Governorate in eastern Syria suffer from the recent increasing tension as the region has become like an all-out war zone, especially following airstrikes rocked headquarters of Iranian-backed militias, most of them are stationed in residential neighborhoods.

The militias posed strict security measures on the residents the matter that has increased their fears of being affected by these developments.

Since the Hamas-led attack on Israel in October 2023, Israel has increasingly targeted Iranian-backed posts and individuals in Syria.

In late March, Israel launched airstrikes on Iranian-linked sites and individuals in Deir ez-Zor, killing 13 military personnel and injuring over 20 others.

Ali al-Salem, a pseudonym of a resident of the town of al-Mayadin in the southeastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, told North Press that the town is witnessing frequent moves and repositions of the Iranian-backed militias after being targeted by airstrikes. This has pushed the militias’ leaders to deploy their headquarters in residential neighborhoods, posing strict security measures that affect the residents’ daily life.   

“We do not carry our mobile phones in those neighborhoods in order not to be accused of espionage,” he said.

If these provocative activities continue, more residents will be forced to leave the town, and this will increase tension and chaos in the region, according to al-Salem.

Ahmad al-Hassan, a pseudonym of a resident of the town of Abu Kamal, east of Deir ez-Zor, speaks about the danger posed on the residential areas because of the deployment of the Iranian-backed militias to them, the matter jeopardizes the population.    

“Following the recent Israeli escalation, the Iranian-backed militias started transporting warehouses and headquarters into residential areas,” al-Hassan told North Press.

On April 1, Israeli airstrikes targeted the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which is adjacent to the main embassy building, killing two generals, including Zahedi, commander of the Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and five other IRGC officers.

Al-Hassan pointed out that many residents have decided to flee to the countryside out of fear of being hurt by the potential attacks.

“The Iranian leaders took advantage of the population displacement to seize their houses and settle the families of their militants in them,” he added.

The source highlighted the increased numbers of violations and arrests carried out by the Iranian-backed militias against residents, as they are usually accused of fake charges, including espionage due to holding mobile phones near military posts.

A source of Iran’s IRGC in Deir ez-Zor told North Press that leaders of the Iranian-backed militias live in a state of fear because of the potential Israeli escalation, so they take tight security measures and change their places of residence continuously.

“Most of the leaders move between military headquarters confidentially, change their escorts and seize their mobile phones, and cancel using walkie-talkies and use maps and cablegrams instead,” the source added.

The source emphasized that these moves confuse the population especially after the Israeli airstrikes and the potential escalation, which reinforces tension in the region.