Syria Daily: Pro-Assad Forces, Kurdish-Led SDF Each Advance v. ISIS in East

The Syrian Democratic Forces announcing their offensive into Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria, September 9, 2017 (Rodi Said/Reuters)

As pro-Assad forces reach Deir ez-Zor airport, Syrian Democratic Forces launch first attack in province from north


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Pro-Assad forces and the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces each advanced on Saturday against the Islamic State in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria.

Having moved into the province at the start of the month, the Assad regime’s army and foreign allies closed on the Deir ez-Zor airbase, besieged by ISIS since 2014, and captured an oilfield and part of the highway between Deir ez-Zor city and Mayadin, another Islamic State stronghold.

Regime forces linking up in the Panorama Roundabout arae, south of Deir ez-Zor city:

Meanwhile, the SDF launched its first attacks against the Islamic State in northern Deir ez-Zor Province, east of the Euphrates River.

The pro-Assad force has closed on ISIS from the west and the south, while the SDF holds much of Hasakah Province to th north of Deir ez-Zor.

The SDF had announced its initial operations on Friday. Ahmed Abu Kholeh, head of the military council, said:

The first step is to free the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the areas Islamic State still holds. We’re not specifying a timeframe but we hope it will be a quick operation.

So far the two forces have largely avoided conflict, in part because of an agreement between the US and the regime’s ally Russia, although a US warplane did shoot down a regime jet in June when it attacked SDF positions near Tabqa in Raqqa Province.

Last week the pro-Assad forces reached the western boundary of Deir ez-Zor city, divided between regime and ISIS units since 2014 and surrounded by the Islamic State. The SDF’s Abu Kholeh would not say if an advance on the city is planned: “We don’t know how the battles will go after this.”

He said SDF fighters did not expect clashes with Syrian government forces, but if fired upon, “We will respond.”

Footage of Russian forces delivering aid to resident of Deir ez-Zor:

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.


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