Troops 3 km away from Deir ez-Zor, according to pro-Assad media
UPDATE 1700 GMT: Claimed footage of advancing pro-Assad forces making contact with those who have been besieged for years near Deir ez-Zor city:
Pro-Assad outlets says the Assad regime’s military and its foreign allies are close to breaking the three-year Islamic State siege of Deir ez-Zor city and the nearby military airport in eastern Syria.
The pro-Assad offensive has made a rapid advance in the last week, completing the capture of almost all ISIS territory in eastern Hama Province and then moving east into Deir ez-Zor Province.
State TV said pro-Assad forces are now only 3 km (2 miles) from the city limits. Hezbollah’s military media unit said units are heading to a camp on the city outskirts.
“Islamic State is in confusion. There is no leadership or centralized control,” a pro-Assad commander declared.
The Russian Defense Ministry hailed its role in operations:
To provide air support to the government troops’ offensive towards Deir ez-Zor, Russian warplanes made more than 80 sorties. The airstrikes destroyed two tanks, three armored infantry carriers and more than ten all-terrain vehicles equipped with heavy weapons. Losses among terrorists amounted to more than 70 men.
The Ministry also said a Russian warship in the Mediterranean Sea fired Kalibr cruise missiles at ISIS positions.
Deir ez-Zor city has been divided between ISIS and regime forces since 2014, and the Islamic State has held most of the province, besieging almost 100,000 people in the city. However, facing not only the pro-Assad assault but also the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the rebels of the Free Syrian Army, ISIS has lost almost all its territory except for Deir ez-Zor since the start of the year.
The provincial governor, Mohammad Ibrahim Samra, said on Sunday, “Despite the shelling and injured, things are running in the city. The institutions are running, the bakeries. Water is also pumped twice a week to our residents, aid is distributed daily.”
Turkey Again Denounces US Arms to Kurdish Militia YPG
Turkey has launched another verbal assault on US support for the Kurdish militia YPG, the leading group in the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Syria.
Turkish officials claim that the US has provided 1,285 truckloads of weapons and ammunition to the YPG, which Ankara considers to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, in contrast to the US position of 60 trucks of arms.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli challenged the statements of American counterpart James Mattis, with Ministry officials saying that Canikli gave Mattis aerial photographs on August 23 proving Ankara’s assertion.
Canikli’s line, published in the pro-Government Daily Sabah, is a pointed rebuff to Mattis. The officials claim that the 1,285 truckloads are enough to equip at least 60,000 soldiers, shredding Mattis’s case — as portrayed by the Turks — that the weapons are for US forces in Syria and Iraq as well as for the SDF.
Mattis has told Turkey’s Defense Ministers, in a June letter as well as the August meeting, that the American support of the YPG is “tactical” and not a sign of an alliance that poses a threat to Turkey.