Syrian troops capture ISIS stronghold Al-Mayadeen amid major offensive

Syrian troops have captured Al-Mayadeen in Deir ez-Zor province, one of the last strongholds still remaining in the hands of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Russia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed.

“Syrian government troops have completed the operation to eliminate Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] fighters in the city of Al-Mayadeen,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

“The assault units of the Syrian army, commanded of by General Hassan Suheil, overcame fierce resistance of terrorists in the central and southern districts to completely liberate the city,” he added.

The spokesman stressed that Al-Mayadeen was the largest city under IS control in the Euphrates Valley and the main terrorist stronghold in eastern Syria.

The terrorists deployed the most efficient reserves from Iraq to defend the city, and their defeat provides Damascus with conditions to further facilitate success on the battlefield.

According to the spokesman, Syrian forces are continuing their advance on terrorist positions with Russian air support.

Earlier, a military source told SANA state news agency that the Syrian army has captured Al Mayadeen.

The city of Al-Mayadeen lies south of Deir ez-Zor’s provincial capital. Over the past months, it has seen fierce fighting between Islamic State and Syrian forces trying to push the Islamists from the small swath of land they held.

Earlier in October, the Syrian Army reached the outskirts of Al-Mayadeen, effectively trapping IS terrorists in the city. Russian naval task force also launched cruise missile strikes on terrorist positions in Al-Mayadeen. 

On Friday, the Russian General Staff announced that Islamic State now controls less than eight percent of Syria due to major successes of the Syrian troops.

The liberation of the strategic city of Al-Mayadeen is a “very important achievement” for the Syrian military, Jamal Wakeem, a Lebanese professor of history and international relations, told RT.

Al-Mayadeen is “a key city that lies on the line of communication that links Syria to Iraq,” he said, adding that “at the same time [this success] strengthens the position of the Syrian Army in Deir ez-Zor.”

US-led coalition bombards Raqqa residential areas – Russian military

The successful actions of the Syrian troops in the west of the country are in sharp contrast to the “stupor” of the US-coalition, which has been unable to complete their counter-terrorism operation in Raqqa for months, Konashenkov said.

“The carpet bombings of residential areas by the US and the coalition as well as deliberate destruction of all natural sources of water supply in Raqqa have so far resulted in nothing, but thousands of victims among the ‘liberated’ population and stark examples of faulty planning of military operations,” he said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Raqqa Civil Council told Reuters on Saturday that the remaining Islamic Sate fighters are going to leave Raqqa “tonight.”

The terrorists will be taking 400 civilians with them as human shields, in accordance with the deal proposed by the US, he said.

The operation to liberate Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, started on June 6 and was carried out by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, with US-led coalition air support.

READ MORE: ‘No proper precautions’: US-led coalition airstrikes near Raqqa killed 84 civilians, HRW says

It led to vast destruction and numerous casualties in the city, with Human Rights Watch and other groups blaming the US-led coalition of not taking the necessary precautions to preserve the lives of civilians.

The US operation in Raqqa is dragging on because the Americans “aren’t really up to scratch in the game that Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for Islamic State] is playing,” Ammar Waqqaf, founder and director of Gnosos consultancy, told RT.

Waqqaf said that the Americans “bombed and stopped” the buses which were taking the retreating Islamic State fighters from eastern Lebanon to Deir ez-Zor in accordance with the deal with Syria, Lebanon and Hezbollah in early September.

“And this backfired as there’s apparently an agreement for the remaining Daesh forces to leave Raqqa, but they’re refusing to go out without taking civilian hostages with them,” he said.

In a way, it’s the Americans which are “forcing Daesh – even if they’re not necessarily wishing so – to hide behind civilians,” Waqqaf stressed.