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ISIS Seeking to Transform Deir Ezzor into Alternative Jihadist ‘Capital’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Children in Aleppo/AFP

Beirut, Moscow- ISIS is currently busy preparing for two intertwined battles inside Syria.

The first is anticipated to take place in its self-proclaimed Syrian capital of Raqqa ahead of the expected offensive of US-allied Syrian forces in the upcoming weeks.

The second battle is likely to be in Deir Ezzor where the group seeks to control the entire governorate before announcing it “as the alternative of Raqqa.”

Syrian activists said on Tuesday that ISIS militants were lately moving their high-ranking officials and their military equipment from Raqqa and Iraq’s Mosul to Deir Ezzor, which has been transformed into the group’s new stronghold.

Regime forces only control some neighborhoods in addition to the military airport of Deir Ezzor.

On Tuesday, fierce clashes between regime forces and ISIS militants erupted in the surroundings of al-Makaber area near the city of Deir Ezzor.

Member of the Syrian campaign “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” activist Abu Mohammed al-Raqqawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that along with the measures taken in Deir Ezzor, ISIS militants continue to plan for the battle in Raqqa by bringing reinforcements, particularly to the northern outskirts of the city.

Abu Mohammed said ISIS militants also completely shut down streets with earth mounds, planted bombs in the trenches and are trying to build bridges to replace the ones already destroyed by coalition warplanes.

In the Kazakh capital, the regime delegation and its Russian and Iranian allies discussed on Tuesday a political solution in Syria in the absence of the Syrian opposition delegation that insisted to boycott the “Astana 3” intra-Syrian talks despite the pressure exerted on its forces to back off from their decision.

In an effort to suggest that the Astana 3 has not failed, the Russian delegation held talks with the Syrian regime representatives, overriding the official nature of the Astana meetings that guarantors said would only tackle military issues.

Head of the Russian delegation Alexander Lavrentye asserted the two delegations discussed constitutional matters

“Issues linked to the new Syrian constitution are also being discussed. These are just details for now. These issues will be resolved in Geneva,” Lavrentye said.