AFTER breaking an IS group blockade, Syria’s army is seeking to encircle the remaining jihadist-held parts of Deir Ezzor city, a military source said on Wednesday. The city is the capital of oil-rich eastern Deir Ezzor province, regarded as a strategic prize by both Russian-backed Syrian troops and US-backed fighters. In Damascus on Wednesday, President Bashar al-Assad said the country was “advancing steadily towards victory thanks to the sacrifices of its army, the determination of its people and the support of its allies”, state news agency SANA said.
Last week, Syria’s army and allied fighters broke a years-long IS siege of Deir Ezzor, entering two regime-held sections of the city that had been cut off from each other. Since then, the army has brought reinforcements to the city and is seeking to oust IS from eastern neighbourhoods that run along the River Euphrates, which slices diagonally through the province.
“The army is seeking to encircle Daesh from three sides by controlling the parts of the western bank of the River Euphrates,” the source said. The operation seeks to “oust Daesh from the city and the province completely”, the military source added. If the army captures Al-Jafra, “Deir Ezzor will be encircled from three sides, so Daesh will have no way out except the Euphrates which is within firing range of regime artillery and Russian warplanes,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.
As the Syrian army backed by Russian air support battles IS in Deir Ezzor, a separate offensive by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces is under way on the eastern side of the province. The operation by the alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters began over the weekend, but the SDF has said it was not coordinating the fight with the regime.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017