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Trenches, Berms, Walls Dominate War Scene in Syria, Iraq

  • Rikar Hussein

A Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighter walks near a wall, which activists said was put up by Turkish authorities, on the Syria-Turkish border in the western countryside of Ras al-Ain, Syria, Jan. 29, 2016.

A Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighter walks near a wall, which activists said was put up by Turkish authorities, on the Syria-Turkish border in the western countryside of Ras al-Ain, Syria, Jan. 29, 2016.

Across the varied landscape of conflict in the Middle East, warring parties are erecting, digging and constructing trenches, berms, and walls — protection tactics that analysts say harken back to medieval times.

The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq is digging trenches across 652 miles of its borders with Sunni territories as defensive lines against Islamic State (IS) attacks.

IS is digging protective trenches, meanwhile, in Mosul in preparation for an anticipated U.S.-backed attack of Kurdish and Iraqi forces, which are aimed at retaking the city. Iraqi forces liberating Fallujah from IS found an elaborate underground maze of walkways and hidden rooms.

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Increased fortification

In its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa, IS already has a series trenches and tunnels built to withstand outside attacks. The Syrian regime has fortified neighborhoods in Damascus with a series of barriers and berms to withstand attacks from rebels and IS.

In Turkey, the government and military have erected a series of berms on the Syrian border to control an escalating Syrian refugee crisis and infiltration from IS and Kurdish militants. Inside Turkey, Kurdish fighters are using trenches to keep Turkish forces at bay.

And in Tunisia, the government recently completed a 200-kilometer (125-mile) barrier along its frontier with Libya to try to keep out Islamist militants.

Experts say the trenches, berms, and walls accomplish several goals. Perhaps most importantly, they work as supporting tactics to reduce casualties caused by deadly firepower used in the battlefield. IS has for months endured separate bombing campaigns by the U.S.-led coalition and Russian warplanes.

“It is a natural occurrence of when weaponry gets to a point that the casualties can’t be sustained,” said Roby Barrett, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington told VOA. “It is a matter of surviving. If you want to survive, you have to dig trenches.”

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