The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.
Since the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel after Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and invaded southern Israel on October 7, 2023, Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have escalated their attacks against U.S. bases in these countries. Several U.S. bases in eastern Syria have been targeted in these attacks, including bases located at the Al-Omar oilfield and the Conoco gas field near Deir Al-Zour, as well as bases near Al-Hasakah.
Against the backdrop of the increased tensions, several Arab media websites, some of which oppose the Iran-led resistance axis, have reported that residents in some areas controlled by Iran-backed militias have been leaving their homes because the militias have been deploying artillery batteries and missile launchers in populated areas in order to use civilians as human shields.
This document provides an overview of the reports on the subject.
Iran-Backed Militias Are Using Syrian Civilians As Human Shields; Dozens Of Families Have Fled Their Homes
On November 1, 2023, the Syrian opposition-affiliated website Eye of Euphrates reported that "in several villages controlled by the Syrian regime and Iranian militias east of Deir Al-Zour, dozens of families – especially those whose homes are near the bank of the Euphrates River – have begun to abandon their homes."
The report cited "special sources" that have said that this is taking place particularly in the towns of Al-'Ashara and Al-Quriyah, where "over 50 families have left after Iranian militias deployed artillery and missile launchers near their homes, which are close to the line of contact with [the U.S.-backed Kurdish] Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF]."
SUPPORT OUR WORK
The sources said that the locals are concerned that the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) and the SDF will strike these areas, particularly if the Iran-backed militias target American bases located east of the Euphrates River from populated areas. The sources also said that "Iranian militias have deployed artillery and missile launchers between homes in order to use the residents as human shields."
The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also reported that in light of the escalation in the rural area east of Deir Al-Zour and the increased attacks against U.S. forces in the region, residents of nearby villages and towns have begun to leave their homes. The report said that local sources have said that the Iran-backed militias deployed near the Euphrates River have positioned themselves near residential neighborhoods. Similarly, Independent Arabia reported that many locals are concerned that if the escalation continues, they will be forced to leave their homes and flee to somewhere farther away from the American bases and the militia positions.
Iran-Backed Militias Are Deploying Missile Launchers Near Homes With Families In Them
It should be noted that over the past several days, the Syrian opposition-affiliated Eye of Euphrates website has reported that Iran-backed militias have deployed missile launchers near occupied homes in several villages throughout Syria's Deir Al-Zour province, and in some cases, they have used these launchers to carry out attacks against American bases. On October 19, the website reported that the attack against the Conoco gas field was carried out from several sites controlled by Iran-backed militias, including Khasham and Al-Mari'iyah.
On October 30, the website reported that coalition forces bombed the militia positions in Khasham from which artillery shells were fired at the U.S. base at the Conoco gas field.
 See MEMRI JTTM Reports: Iran-Backed 'Islamic Resistance In Iraq' Claims Drone, Rocket Attacks Against U.S. Forces In Eastern Syria, Western Iraq, October 30, 2023; Iran-Backed 'Islamic Resistance In Iraq' Claims Two Rocket Attacks On U.S. Forces In Northeastern Syria, October 25, 2023.
 Eyeofeuphrates.com, November 1, 2023.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 1, 2023.
 Independentarabia.com, October 29, 2023.
 Eyeofeuphrates.com, October 19, 2023.
 Eyeofeuphrates.com, October 30, 2023.