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Executive Summary for September 5th

We review the key developments in Syria, including Syrian troops reaching within miles of Deir Ezzor city, the SDF liberating the ancient quarters of Raqqa and reports that a convoy of ISIS fighters is still stranded in government-held territory in the Syrian desert.

Published on Sep. 5, 2017 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Pro-Government Forces Breach ISIS Siege in Deir Ezzor

Syrian troops and allied fighters have breached the perimeter of the so-called Islamic State’s three-year siege on government-held areas in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor on Tuesday, the Associated Press has reported.

Citing Syrian state media, AP said that pro-government forces advancing west of Deir Ezzor have reached the western outskirts of the city. Advancing troops have also joined forces with soldiers in the besieged government-held garrison on the western edge of the city, according to the head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Despite government advances, roughly half of the provincial capital is still under siege by ISIS, including a nearby military air base in the south of the city and three adjacent neighborhoods.

Deir al-Zor provincial governor Mohammed Ibrahim Samra told Reuters that pro-government forces were now pushing toward the besieged air base.

ISIS is also still in control of much of Deir al-Zor province, including its strongholds of al-Mayadin and Boukamal, along the Euphrates River.

Syrian troops and allied fighters have been heading toward Deir Ezzor from multiple directions for months as part of a government campaign that aims to drive militants from the eastern city.

ISIS has responded to government advances toward one of its last strongholds in Syria by pulling reinforcements from the town of al-Mayadin, a commander in the pro-Assad alliance told Reuters on Monday. The militant group has also relied on land mines, booby traps and surprise raids to slow down advancing forces.

This is an update on a previously published story.

SDF Capture Raqqa’s Old City

The U.S-led coalition said on Monday that Washington-backed forces have retaken the ancient quarters of Raqqa city and a centuries-old mosque from ISISReuters reported.

Backed by coalition warplanes, the Syrian Democratic Forces last week cleared the Great Mosque of Raqqa and Raqqa’s Old City in an advance that has brought 65 percent of the embattled city under their control.

ISIS militants still control districts in the west of the city and are holed up in central Raqqa, where most of the group’s bases remain.

SDF forces have been battling to capture Raqqa from ISIS since June but their progress has been slowed by heavy ISIS fortifications.

Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, said on Friday that he expected ISIS to be defeated in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor by October, the Guardian reported.

ISIS Convoy Still Stuck in Syrian Desert

A convoy of ISIS fighters destined for militant-held territory in eastern Syria is still stranded in a government-held area in the Syrian desert, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

Hundreds of ISIS fighters and their families have been stranded for roughly eight days in the Syrian desert east of the government-held town of Sukhnah.

U.S. coalition forces have prevented the convoy of evacuees from reaching Deir Ezzor province by destroying roads leading to friendly territory in the town of al-Bukamal.

On Monday, the coalition said that it had passed a message to the Syrian government asking it to separate civilians from fighters. “The Syrian regime is letting women and children suffer in the desert. This situation is completely on them,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said, according to the AP.

More than 300 ISIS militants and about 300 civilians were taken by bus from the Lebanese border last Monday as part of an evacuation agreement brokered by Hezbollah with the help of the Syrian government.

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