Russia continues to use heavy bombers to fight anti-Assad regime insurgents and ISIS fighters in Syria. Today, the government posted this video of the imposing Tu-22M flying thousands of miles to drop the same 250 kg dumb bombs that their aircraft based in Syria may have dropped. Their target was supposedly Assad’s last holdout in Syria’s east, a city of 200,000 that could fall to ISIS at any time, even though high-altitude carpet bombing has highly questionable accuracy and possibly horrific results for civilians.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence’s Facebook page, over a three day period the Backfire bombers executed 18 sorties from Russian territory to strike at targets in and around Deir-ez-Zor, Syria:
“Having lost the initiative in Western Syria, leadership of the “Islamic State” made decision to concentrate main efforts on capturing Deir ez-Zor, which has been under terrorists’ siege for long.
Therefore, in accordance to representatives of the Syrian patriotic opposition and Informational Centre in Baghdad, the #ISIS pulled up to 2,000 militants with armored hardware and vehicles with large-caliber machine guns to the assigned area last week.”
Deir ez-Zor is located about 60 miles from Iraq’s western border with Syria, along the Euphrates river. If you follow the river northwest from Deir ez Zor, Raqqa, ISIS’ seat of power, is located along its banks about 75 miles away.
That means the route along the Euphrates has been a major supply and transportation node for ISIS when it comes to supporting its forces in western Iraq, and especially Ramadi, at least up until it was retaken by Iraqi forces recently.
Many ISIS fighters are known to have fled west during the offensive. As such, the idea that more ISIS forces have built up in eastern Syria is logical. It is likely that many of those fighters have augmented other ISIS forces that have had Deir ez-Zor under heavy siege for some time.
If the city falls, it will mark the end of the Assad regime’s hold on any major territory in Syria’s east. As such, Russia has air-dropped supplies to Assad’s forces in the city and have been carry out strikes in the area.
Yet Russia’s medium altitude dumb bombing missions seemed to have come at a high cost. The Washington Post notes that watchdog groups have claimed at least 63 people, including nine children, have died ruing strikes carried out by Russian warplanes around Deir al-Zour.
It is possible that these high-altitude carpet-bombing runs may very well be a token show of force so that it looks like something was attempted to break the siege. By letting the city fall, Assad can then focus all his forces and capabilities on protecting and expanding his stronghold along Syria’s much more strategically significant west coast along the Mediterranean.
The siege by thousands of ISIS fighters has resulted in a total breakdown in services within the city. Water is available only once a week and only for about three hours and there is very little food available. Medical supplies are all but gone. Truck bombs have taken a heavy toll on Assad’s military personnel still trapped in the city, not to mention the citizens that are trapped in this state of horror.
What’s even more troubling is that the Assad regime is apparently offering helicopter rides out of the besieged city for anywhere from $500 to $5,000 a seat—a price few can afford.
Just so we’re clear then: the same government could not defend against a couple thousand irregular fighters is now charging its own people top-dollar to leave.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.