SDF Launch Deir Ezzor Offensive
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched an offensive that aims to drive the so-called Islamic State from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor on Saturday, Al Jazeera reported.
The SDF’s campaign comes only four days after the Syrian army and allied fighters breached the militant group’s nearly three-year-long siege of parts of Deir Ezzor city.
The SDF said on Sunday that they had reached Deir Ezzor’s industrial zone, just a few miles to the east of the city, Reuters reported.
According to Reuters, only 10 miles (15km) of ground and the Euphrates River in Deir Ezzor separate the U.S.-backed forces from Syrian troops.
Forces participating in the SDF’s Deir Ezzor offensive say they do not expect clashes with pro-government fighters but will respond if they come under fire, Reuters said.
Syrian Troops Gain More Ground in Deir Ezzor
Syrian troops and allied forces made swift advances against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) in eastern Syria over the weekend, as part of an ongoing push against the jihadi group.
According to Reuters, Syrian troops and allied fighters advancing from the west of Deir Ezzor captured the Damascus-Deir Ezzor highway after clashes with militants over the weekend.
Citing a Hezbollah media unit, Reuters said that pro-government forces linked up with troops already in Deir Ezzor at the Panorama entrance to the city, in an advance that has brought the whole road under their control for the first time in years.
According to Al Jazeera, Syrian troops and allied fighters also recaptured the Taym oilfield, southwest of Deir Ezzor city, on Saturday.
Government forces also recaptured part of the main road running from Deir Ezzor to the ISIS-stronghold of al-Mayadeen, downstream along the Euphrates River, on Saturday, Reuters said. The move is slated to prevent ISIS from sending reinforcements from al-Mayadeen to Deir Ezzor city.
Pro-government forces also secured control of the al-Tharda mountain that overlooks Deir Ezzor’s military airbase over the weekend, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Control of the mountain, according to the monitoring group, will help pro-government forces secure full control of the military airbase and adjacent neighborhoods.
Separately, at least 17 civilians were killed in Deir Ezzor on Sunday by Russian airstrikes that targeted ferries waiting to transport passengers across the Euphrates River from the ISIS-held town of al-Baloul, the Associated Press reported.
Syrian Rebels Asked to Surrender Positions in Southwest
Two Syrian rebel groups based in southwest Syria have been asked by their Western and Arab backers to end fighting with the Syrian government in the area and retreat to Jordan, Reuters reported on Sunday.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliates Usoud al-Sharqiya and Martyr Ahmad Abdo said that the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are asking them to surrender their positions in the region and cease all fighting with pro-government forces.
“There is a official request for us to leave the area,” Badr al-Din al-Salamah, a senior official in the Usoud al-Sharqiya group, told Reuters.
“We have rejected the request, since if we entered Jordan we would consider it the end … the blood of our martyrs has not dried yet,” said al-Salamah.
Unnamed diplomatic sources told Reuters that the request is tied to U.S. president Donald Trump’s decision in July to end the covert CIA program supporting Syrian rebels fighting the Syrian government.
The exit proposal comes after weeks of clashes between the FSA-linked opposition factions and the Syrian army in border regions in Suweida province. In recent weeks, Syrian troops have recaptured a number of positions from rebels along the border with Jordan.
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