Daesh mines villages, kill civilians near Tabqa City.
On 27 January, two men were killed in the village of Jarniya (70 km northwest of Tabqa City) by Daesh mines planted there ahead of advancing Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces. The explosion also injured five children, two of them critically. As the SDF continues its offensive and Daesh comes under increased pressure, Daesh is likely to undertake similar sabotage attempts, endangering the lives of military forces and civilians alike.
Daesh struggles to keep commodity prices low in Dayr al-Zawr.
On 23 January, the Daesh Office of Security announced the opening of a new “Office of General Security”, which would further regulate local shopkeepers. Shopkeepers, particularly moneychangers, are obliged to lower their prices in order to obtain a license to operate from this new office. This move to keep prices artificially low and maintain some measure of approval with the local population points to a conciliatory Daesh posture toward civilians in Dayr al-Zawr City. Last week, on 19 January, Daesh distributed sweets among local residents before requesting their assistance in starting fires around the city. On 26 January, Daesh vehicles toured newly acquired Daesh areas in Dayr al-Zawr City, announcing that residents should stay in their homes and that Daesh would avoid targeting them. These moves, taken as a whole, indicate a Daesh investment in the support of the residents of Dayr al-Zawr City, reinforcing the notion that Daesh’s inhiyaz ila al-sahara (retreat to the desert) strategy may center on Dayr al-Zawr and the Syria-Iraq border region in the east.
Daesh withdraws some fighters from Tabqa City.
On 28 January, a number of vehicles loaded with Daesh fighters, their families, and their possessions left the city. The types of possessions taken indicate that these fighters likely do not believe they will be returning to Tabqa City. At the same time, Daesh restricted civilians’ ability to leave Tabqa City, allowing only individual men to leave so that they would be forced to return to the city for their families. These actions are almost certainly a direct response to the SDF advance in Raqqa province, with Daesh strategically repositioning some troops before the SDF isolates Tabqa City from Raqqa City. Additionally, Daesh has a history of preventing residents from fleeing besieged cities, as has occurred in al-Bab City and Manbij, where Daesh preferred that residents be used as human shields against air strikes and decisive military maneuvers.