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Syria, Russia break ISIS siege in Deir Ez-Zor

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The Syrian Arab Army just won a major morale boosting victory in their fight against terrorism. Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War Deir ez-Zor or has seen war. Initially, the fighting was between government forces and various terrorist groups, most notably the FSA. But in April of 2014, the Islamic State launched a major offensive, eventually whipping out the moderate terrorists in the region. Since then ISIS has established a siege on the SAA 137th Brigade in Deir ez-Zor. It has since remained as one of the few government strongholds in east Syria.

In my previous piece on the Syrian Civil War, I noted how the SAA was focused on cleaning up central Syria in what seemed like a brief pause on the route to lift their besieged people. However within the last few days, Syria and Russia have launched a major offensive to reach the 137th Brigade.

Figure 1: Deir ez-Zor September 2nd, 2017

Figure one shows the preparation for the major offensive. The SAA Tiger Forces are advancing north of the highway while SAA and even Russian SOF are advancing on the highway. The battle is audible to the besieged Syrians.

Figure 2: Deir ez-Zor September 3rd, 2017 SAA and allies make significant gains.

Syria and its allies were successful with both advances in lifting the siege. However ISIS prepares a major counteroffensive from the south. The Islamic State recaptures much of the SAA gains along the highway. In the meantime, the distance between the 137th Brigade and the SAA Tiger forces becomes the main focus for the SAA and Russia.

Figure 3: Deir ez-Zor September 4th, 2017, Islamic State launches counter offensive

With Russia and Syria consolidating their advance on reaching the 137th Brigade, the Islamic State advances their counter offensive. Heavy fighting takes place with both sides putting everything they got in to it. The SAA turns 5km in to 4km into 3km, steadily closing the gap. On September 5, the Syrian state TV announced that the siege has been lifted.

Figure 4: Deir ez-Zor September 5th, 2017, SAA and allies lift the siege

An estimated 120,000 people are no longer surrounded by ISIS. SAA forces reunite with their 137th Brigade. Dozens of military vehicles enter the formerly besieged area to reinforce their fight to take back the rest of the city. Currently the SAA is trying to keep the momentum high by recapturing their positions south along the highway with the assistance of Russian cruise missiles.

This is the most decisive victory for Assad and Syria since winning the Siege of Aleppo. While the SAA was advancing to rescue its people, Assad and his regime were making it known that they were not forgotten. Assad perfectly hyped this victory to get as much of a morale boost as he could. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Assad over the phone.

The Islamic State’s days in Syria are becoming numbered. The SAA dedicated a massive portion of their forces on this campaign. With these forces still heavily concentrated in the area, the SAA will likely lay siege to ISIS in the rest of Deir ez-Zor. Urban warfare has proved deadly and slow throughout the wars waged against ISIS. Unfortunately for Syria, ISIS still has several towns and cities along the Euphrates River to both the north and the south. But for now, ISIS is rendered a major defeat.

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