Executive Summary for August 28th

We review the key developments in Syria, including a cease-fire agreement halting battles against ISIS on the Lebanese border, the SDF announcing plans to attack ISIS in Deir Ezzor and reports of pro-government advances in the central Syrian desert.

Published on Aug. 28, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Cease-Fire Agreement Pauses ISIS Battles on Lebanese Border

Combat against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) on the Lebanese-Syrian frontier paused on Sunday after a cease-fire agreement was struck between warring parties, the Associated Press reported.

The exact terms of the cease-fire remain vague, but the Lebanese army said it had paused its military campaign to determine the fate of nine Lebanese troops who had been taken hostage by the militant group in 2014. The bodies of eight of the nine soldiers were located by Lebanese authorities on Sunday and transported back to Lebanon as part of the deal.

The Syrian government and Hezbollah, meanwhile, are reportedly working on a broader deal that would grant militants safe passage from the Lebanese border to Bukamal, a militant-held Syrian town in Deir Ezzor, along the Iraqi border.

Syrian state media said the border areas would soon be declared free of ISIS militants, according to the AP.

The deal comes after the Lebanese army cleared militants from a 38 square mile (100 square km) mountainous area that straddles the Lebanese-Syrian frontier this week. The advance has isolated ISIS militants in an 8 square mile (20 square km) pocket on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Ras Baalbek.

Hezbollah and the Syrian army’s simultaneous but separate campaign against the group has also succeeded in driving militants from more than 100 square miles (260 square km) on the Syrian side of the border, leaving less than 16 square miles (40 square km) under militant control.

It is unclear whether the Lebanese government coordinated with Hezbollah or the Syrian army over the cease-fire deal, but Washington-backed Lebanese troops have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of cooperation with the Lebanese paramilitary group or the government in Damascus.

SDF Prepare for Deir Ezzor Offensive

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on Friday that they will soon launch an offensive to drive ISIS from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, Reuters reported.

Ahmed Abu Khawla, who heads the Deir Ezzor military council that fights under the SDF banner, did not specify an exact date for the operation. But he told Reuters that military plans were ready, and that his unit had already “entered Deir Ezzor territory and liberated several towns.”

One day after the announcement, ISIS attacked an SDF base in Shaddadi town, about 75 miles (120km) north of Deir Ezzor, the AP reported. A member of the SDF media center told the agency that 12 ISIS militants, including four suicide bombers, attacked their offices. He noted, however, that the attack was foiled, leaving the attackers dead and a number of SDF fighters injured.

Syrian Army Advances Against ISIS in Central Syria

Syrian troops and allied fighters captured 770 square miles (2,000 square km) from ISIS in the central Homs desert on Saturday, Reuters reported.

The advance means that the only significant remaining ISIS presence in Homs is in a besieged enclave on the provincial border with Hama, according to Reuters.

The advances in the Homs desert are part of the Syrian government’s push to the province of Deir Ezzor. Syrian troops and allied militias have been moving toward the ISIS stronghold from three different angles – in central, northern and southern Syria. According to the AP, pro-government troops are now about 40 miles (65km) from the provincial capital.

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