ISIS terrorists pulling strongest units to Deir ez-Zor for last stand – Russian MoD
“Syrian government forces supported by Russian Aerospace forces are swiftly pushing from three directions towards Deir ez-Zor at the moment. The foothold around the city is the last stronghold of terrorists on Syrian soil,” General Sergey Rudskoy, spokesman for the Russian General Staff, said on Monday during a press briefing in Moscow.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists are trying to gather more forces in the Deir ez-Zor province ahead of the final push of the Syrian Army and its allies, Rudskoy added.
“The remaining [terrorist] forces are heading there. According to our data, militants from Mosul [in Iraq] moved there and the most battle-ready units from Raqqa,” Rudskoy stated.
He added that despite the withdrawal of the majority of IS terrorists from Raqqa, the “so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, supported by the US and allies” were still unable to capture it after a three-month siege.
The swift actions of the army and its allies in central Syria allowed IS forces to be surrounded in the vicinity of the town of Akerbat, the spokesman said, adding that the town was expected to be liberated in the nearest future. The breakthrough in central Syria was ensured by the actions of the units commanded by Syrian General Suheil al-Hassan, nicknamed “the Tiger,” as well as Russian aerial support.
New tactics used by the Syrian government forces allowed large chunks of territory to be liberated with a low casualty count. A tactical landing behind the frontline performed on August 11-12 near the village of El-Kder with the support of Russian Ka-52 attack helicopters played a major role in the collapse of IS defenses in central Syria, Rudskoy said.
A number of suspected IS terrorists have also been surrounded in the southeast of the city of Ithriyah, after Syrian forces took control of the strategic section of the Ithriyah to as-Sukhnah road, at the village of Bir Kdem, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“ISIS units are completely shattered in the area. The Syrian Army is advancing at a speed of 30-40km a day there,” Rudskoy said.
“The defeat of the main forces of the most odious terrorist group, ISIS, which intended to create a so-called ‘caliphate,’ will be completed with lifting the siege of Deir ez-Zor.”
The Russian Air Force has significantly intensified its operations against IS in August, upping the number of sorties to 60-70 per day as the push for Deir ez-Zor gains momentum.
“During the past five days, Russian planes made 316 sorties and carried out 819 strikes,” Rudskoy said. “All in all, in August, Russian Aerospace forces aviation made 990 sorties, [and] 2,518 airstrikes have been carried out on command posts, positions, stockpiles, transshipment bases and camps. Forty armored vehicles, 106 gun trucks and up to 800 terrorists have been destroyed,” Rudskoy said.
The key Euphrates city of Deir ez-Zor has been under terrorist siege for two and a half years, after being cut off from government-held areas in the May 2015 jihadist offensive on Palmyra. The surrounded city, alongside a neighboring military base and airfield, have been supplied with food and ammunition by Russian and Syrian transport planes and helicopters.
Russian planes have delivered 293 tons of food and medical supplies to Deir ez-Zor so far in August, according to Rudskoy.
While the Syrian Army and allied forces are pushing toward the besieged city, the situation in the enclave remains tense. Syrian forces in the area received a significant blow in September 2016, when the US-led coalition mistakenly bombed army positions, killing and injuring roughly 200 servicemen. The airstrike coincided with an IS terrorist offensive which captured several key positions in the area. The loss of these ultimately led to the enclave being sliced in two this January, when terrorists managed to disrupt the supply line between the airfield and the rest of the stronghold.