Rebel-on-rebel fighting in Syria’s oil-rich Deir Ezzor Province continues to escalate, and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) seems to be getting the better of its rivals overwhelmingly, and making more territorial gains.
Fighting in the province kicked off early this month, with an attack on rival rebel faction Jabhat al-Nusra in Bukamal. That city was particularly important for AQI, because it includes an Iraq border crossing.
AQI’s expanding Deir Ezzor corridor gives them a virtually contiguous territory from Abu Ghraib, just 20 miles from the Baghdad, to the northern Syria province of Aleppo.
AQI seems to be fighting less and less with the Syrian military itself and focusing on the other rebels, who are both closer targets and usually holding more strategic prizes. As the war drags on, it seems AQI is carving out a de facto country of its own in the area.