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Pro-Assad forces completed the capture of Deir ez-Zor city in eastern Syria on Friday, reducing the Islamic State to a last town on the border with Iraq.
After a Thursday advance that took four neighborhoods, the Assad regime’s military and foreign allies quickly removed the final pocket of ISIS fighters yesterday. The military said that mine sweeps were being carried out to remove unexploded ordnance.
The Islamic State, which held much of northern Syria in 2014, has now been reduced to the area around al-Bukamal, a key point on the border. On the Iraqi side, ISIS lost the town of al-Qaim and the last crossing on Friday.
Enabled by Russian airstrikes, Hezbollah, Iranian units, and Iranian-supported foreign militias, the pro-Assad offensive moved into Deir ez-Zor Province at the start of September and quickly broke a three-year siege on the divided Deir ez-Zor city and on the nearby airbase. Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led, US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces advanced last month to the north and east of the city, and took major oilfields.
The de facto partition of Deir ez-Zor, with the SDF now holding more than 80% of Syria’s oil, sets up the possibility of clashes between the pro-Assad units and the Kurdish-led forces. Last month, there were skirmishes as the pro-Assad offensive, using Russian-laid pontoon bridges, tried to move along the eastern side of the Euphrates River.