Iran transferring weaponry to residential neighborhoods in Syria

According to reports, the redeployment includes the transfer and hiding of rockets and heavy weapons in tunnels that Iranian forces previously dug in the heart of populated civilian neighborhoods in eastern Syria. A Syrian military expert says Israel was "just around the corner" 

The Syria-Iraq border in Abu Kamal, one of the populated areas where the Iranian forces are hiding. Photo: REUTERS/THaier Al-Sudani

Iranian forces and affiliated militias in Deir ez-Zor province redeployed after their military sites and barracks were hit last week by airstrikes attributed to Israel, the Al-Monitor website reported. The forces evacuated the sites that were hit, emptied the weapons depots and moved their weapons and personnel to hidden locations in populated areas in the cities of Deir ez-Zor, Abu Kamal and Mayadeen.

"The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its militias in Deir ez-Zor governorate have carried out unprecedented military action" and "transferred the bulk of their members and military equipment to residential neighborhoods," a journalist named Ahed Slebi, who covers the area, said to Al-Monitor. "The new deployments included transferring rockets and heavy weapons and hiding them inside the tunnels that Iranian forces had previously dug."

Slebi added that, in his view, the Iranian forces fear that there will be additional bombings soon, which is why they are fortifying their hiding places inside residential neighborhoods. "They have also lowered flags from the roofs of the buildings where they are stationed. They removed all signs indicating their presence to avoid being targeted, and imposed a security cordon around their military sites," he said. According to Slebi, no accurate figures on the death toll are available (various media organizations estimate the number to be in the dozens) because the Iranians conceal this information.

However, Slebi pointed out the sites that in his opinion were intended for the bombings attributed to Israel, the one from last week and also previous ones. "The first raids targeted the Imam Ali military base in the countryside of Abu Kamal, which is the largest Iranian base in eastern Syria." Sites erected by the Pakistani and Afghan brigades were also bombed, as well as roads leading to the military crossing with Iraq, where Hezbollah is stationed, he said. Slebi emphasized that the Iranians had fortified themselves in residential neighborhoods even before the redeployment. The bombing reached the Iranian forces' sites within residential neighborhoods, the Military Security building, and warehouses, in which explosions kept going for a long time, which was evidence that ammunition stores had exploded inside them, he said.  

The militias "have all taken up Deir ez-Zor and the border strip with Iraq in Abu Kamal and Mayadeen as a new area of influence. They believed they could escape the Israeli fire they were constantly under near Damascus and in southern Syria," said Syrian military researcher Abdulsalam Abdulrazzaq. "They started building headquarters and underground tunnels, brought military reinforcements and strategic weapons to the area, and have been expanding their presence there for about three months, but Israeli aircraft were just around the corner once again."