Deir ez-Zor used to be a prosperous city prior to the war due to its close proximity to the Euphrates, numerous oil fields and Iraq. Living in Deir ez-Zor these days is a challenge.
Multiple city districts don't have running water. Goods cost up to ten times more than in other parts of Syria. The choice of foods is limited to local potherb, rice, eggs and grain. Residents have not seen meat, vegetables and fruit in years. There is nearly no fuel to cook food, with some making fire using old clothes and shoes.
"Kids younger than five years do not know what tomatoes or cucumbers, let alone fruit taste like. We usually eat once a day. We spend as little as possible. We need to survive and wait in the hope that the army breaks the siege," a mother of six said. "We don't care how we die, whether it's terrorist bullets or famine," she added desperately.
Russia's military engagement in the six-year-long conflict has brought hope to some.
"You've come. It brings us joy. Russia has come to our defense. Who knows, if it were not for your planes, we would be lying in ditches beheaded, while houses would have flown Daesh's black flags. Russians in the city are a sign that the siege would soon be lifted and we would be saved," a local told Alaeddin.
According to unconfirmed reports, Damascus-led forces located near the ancient ruins of Palmyra are expected to move toward Deir ez-Zor soon. But they will first need to liberate the settlement of Es-Suhne to reach the besieged city located 200 kilometers to the northeast.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) fighters in Deir ez-Zor are trying to take control of the road linking the airbase to the city. The airfield and civilians who live nearby were cut off from the urban center last year following an airstrike carried out by the US-led coalition and the ensuing Daesh offensive. The SAA officers say that life in the exclave is a catastrophe.
Only two hospitals have remained open in the embattled city, with injured coming in daily. "I was walking out of a mosque after the Friday prayer. Suddenly shelling began and people started to fall. I received wounds to the abdomen and the leg," a senior man told Alaeddin.
Despite extreme conditions, locals are true optimists. For instance, football matches have served as a source of hope and joy for many, with stands full of spectators holding flags and posters depicting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Deir ez-Zor resident are fully aware that terrorists are only hundreds of meters away and an attack could be launched any minute. Yet they come to support their favorite teams defying the odds.
"What is left for us to do? If we lose even the smallest joy and live in constant fear, we will not survive. By uniting over football, we forget about our troubles for a while and enjoy life. We are human. We want to live. We have lived with hope for three years," a young fan clutching the Syrian national flag told Alaeddin.
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