West Euphrates Region | US aircraft and unidentified drones attack Iranians’ positions on 17 occasions in 2021, leaving over 125 casualties
SOHR renew its appeals to force Iranian forces and their proxy militias out of Syria
Although Iranian-backed militias have been strengthening their presence in regime-held areas across Syria, west Euphrates region has become the most prominent and strategic region for Iran in Syrian territory. With nearly 30,000 Syrian and non-Syrian fighters operating under their command in that region, the Iranians managed to turn west Euphrates into an “independent colony” in Syria in just a few years.
The key region is located on Tehran-Beirut highway, which the Iranians had sought for imposing their influence on until Qassem Soleimani, who led the military operations in the area at that time, managed to capture al-Bokamal in 2017. Accordingly, Soleimani could secure the highway between Tehran and Beirut, running through Syria and Iraq.
As a part of efforts by the USA, International Coalition and Israel to eliminate Iran from Syria, Iranian-backed militias in west Euphrates region have been subjected to frequent aerial attacks since the Iranians imposed their control of that region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights would like to shed light on the escalating attacks by US aircraft and other unidentified drones, believed to be American or affiliated to the International Coalition, on Iranian-backed militias’ positions in west Euphrates region since early 2021.
According to SOHR statistics, airstrikes hit Iranians’ positions on 17 occasions in 2021, 16 attacks targeted positions, headquarters, posts and vehicles in al-Bokamal city and countryside, on the Syria-Iraq border, and only one attack was executed on al-Mayadeen.
These attacks left 49 Iranian-backed Syrian and non-Syrian militiamen dead and over 78 others injured, some seriously, and destroyed at least 23 targets.
Further details of these airstrikes could be summarised as follows:
- January 7: A drone targeted a vehicle belonging to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, while attempting to enter Syrian territory, via an unofficial border crossing with Iraq near the town of Al-Bokamal in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The attack left the four PMF members who were in the vehicle dead and others injured.
- February 11: An unidentified drone targeted a car carrying a shipment of weapons coming from Iraq, near an unofficial military crossing between Iraq and Syria. The crossing was used by Iranian-backed militias to move between the two countries and to bring in reinforcement and shipments near the city of Al-Bokamal in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. Meanwhile, violent explosions were heard in the area after the car loaded with ammunition and weapons was targeted.
- February 26: US fighter jets targeted a weapon shipment affiliated to Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, while it was crossing into Syria from Iraq, at 01:00 am Syria time, near Al-Qa’em crossing in Al-Bokamal area in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The airstrikes left great human and material losses, as SOHR activists documented the death of 22 Iranian-backed Iraqi militiamen, specifically affiliated to Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, while three trucks carrying ammunition were destroyed. It is worth noting that forces of the Iraqi Hezbollah were also stationed in the targeted area.
- March 22: An unidentified drone targeted oil wells in Al-Bokamal desert in rural Deir Ezzor, near the Syria-Iraq border. According to SOHR sources the targeted wells were rehabilitated by Iranian-backed militias, after they had been destroyed by ISIS during its control of the area.
- April 29: A drone struck the house of a commander of Iranian-backed militias and a military vehicle in Al-Sayyal town, nearly 11 kilometres to the north-west of Al-Bokamal city, on the western bank of the Euphrates river in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, near the Syria-Iraq border. The attack resulted in the death of a non-Syrian commander and the injury of five militiamen, as the drone targeted the militiamen with a missile after it had struck the commander’s house.
- June 28: Seven members of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces were killed in the US airstrikes on military posts of the Iranian-backed militias near at the Iraq-Syria border in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. The attacks also destroyed a weapon warehouse and another military post of these militias.
- July 13: An unidentified drone attacked the military gate of Iranian-backed militias in al-Herri village near al-Bokamal city on the Syria-Iraq border.
- July 18: A US drone attacked at least one military vehicle of the Iraqi Hezbollah operating under the banner of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces in Al-Seway’ah area in al-Bokamal on the Syria-Iraq border, just after it had entered Syria from Iraq. According to SOHR activists, the targeted vehicle carried weapons and ammunition belonging to the Iraqi Hezbollah. The attack destroyed the vehicle and killed its driver, but it was not known if there were other militiamen in the targeted vehicle or not.
- September 4: unidentified drones attacked three trucks of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces near the Syria-Iraq border in al-Bokamal countryside. The attacked destroyed the trucks and left three militiamen dead and others injured.
- September 27: Unidentified drones struck al-Mazare’ area in al-Mayadeen desert, which hosts the largest gathering of Iranian-backed militias in the west Euphrates region, destroying Iranian-made surface-to-surface missiles launchpads that had been established by the Iranian-backed militias in that region. Moreover, the attack and rockets’ shrapnel wounded at least 12 pro-Iran non-Syrian militiamen, and they were taken to al-Shefaa hospital which is affiliated to these militias in al-Mayadeen city. Meanwhile, the targeted site was cordoned off and the Iranian-backed militias were seen on high alert.
- September 30: Observatory activists reported hearing several explosions in Deir Ezzor countryside, near the Syria-Iraq, caused by an attack by unidentified drone on positions of the Iranian-backed militias in the region. According to SOHR sources, the drone was seen flying in the region this evening and targeted positions in al-Katef area near al-Bokamal city with two missiles at lease. Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed militiamen attempted to shot down the drone with heavy machineguns.
- October 8: Fires broke out in some military headquarters of Iranian-backed militias nearby Aiysha hospital in al-Bokamal city in Deir Ezzor countryside, after an unidentified drone attacked these headquarters. The drone attack coincided with the sound of heavy gunfire in al-Bokamal city, as the Iranian-backed militias were attempting to shot down the drone using anti-aircraft machineguns. Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed militias were seen on high alert in al-Bokamal city on the Syria-Iraq border, amid unconfirmed reports of shooting down the drone after the attack.
- October 11: Four members of Iran-backed militias were killed due to airstrikes by unknown drones on positions and posts of those factions in al-Bokamal region near the Iraq-Syria border in east of Deir Ezzor. The fatalities included a Syrian militiaman, while the nationalities and identities of the other three militiamen remained unknown.
- November 9: Unknown drone attacked areas under the control of Iranian-backed militias on the outskirts of al-Bokamal, but no casualties have been reported.
- November 10: At least seven Iranian-backed militiamen were killed due to airstrikes by unknown drone, which targeted positions and weapons warehouses in al-Bokamal city in east Deir Ezzor countryside. According to SOHR sources, the deaths included three Syrians who worked for the Iranian-backed militias. However, the nationalities of the other four militiamen remained unknown. Moreover, the airstrikes destroyed warehouses of weapons and ammunition.
- November 15: Unidentified drones struck positions where Iranian-backed militias were stationed on the outskirts of al-Bokamal city in the eastern countryside of Dei Ezzor. Plums of smoke were seen in the targeted sites. However, no casualties were reported.
- On the same day, November 15: SOHR activists reported hearing loud eight explosions in al-Bokamal city in eastern Deir Ezzor, caused by airstrikes by unidentified drones on Iranian-backed militias’ positions. The attacks destroyed a headquarters where weapons and ammunition were stored.
In light of the escalating attacks on the region, Iranian-backed militias adopted timid precautionary measures to avoid considerable losses, such as redeployment and transportation of weapons to different warehouses after every attack. In addition, the Iranians changed the time when they transport weapon shipments from and to Iraq and used some camouflage strategies. However, all these measures have been failed, as the successive attacks could achieve their objects.
It is common knowledge that Iran played a great role in the killing and displacement of thousands of Syrian people, so we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which has been all along monitoring and tracking the daily movements by the Iranians across Syria through a vast network of activists and very reliable sources, renew our appeals to all international actors to exert extra pressure on Iran to leave Syria, and to exert diligent efforts to bring all criminals, perpetrators and all those who aided and abetted killing and torturing Syrians to international courts.