URGENT / SYRIA – The Syrian government finally reaches Deir ez-Zor

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After nearly four years of underreported siege by the Islamic State on the regime held-town of Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Arab Army along with its allies reached their belligerents and about 100.000 civilians.

The offensive was launched in July from Palmyra and the Syrian government quickly advanced through the desert receiving the all-important cover from the air by Russian and Syrian airplanes and attack-helicopters. Those military capabilities were key for the offensive (which was conducted on the ground by the Republican Guard), as there were few towns on the way to Deir ez-Zor. This meant that the Islamic State had few areas from where they could take cover and launch meaningful counter-attacks without being spotted.

Instead, the key strategic points were the desert-mountains. The forces which held those, could set up artillery and other military tools to watch and strike the forces underneath. As the Syrian army was the only player on the ground with capabilities in the air, the IS was continuingly bombarded and forced to retreat from those points. Their last-stand before Deir ez-Zor was in a town called Al-Shukhna and proved to be worthless as well. The morale of their fighters is by now at an all-time low with the loss of Mosul, the encirclement of Raqqa by the Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the Western Coalition among others.

Nevertheless, the battle for Deir ez-Zor is far from over. While the regime has reached one half of the city, which was held by the troops of the 137th Brigade, the other half is still under siege. The civilians there are protected by troops stationed in an adjacent airbase. The route between the two military instalments was cut early this year and fears of total Daesh takeover had been mounting ever since.

Instead the Syrian and Russian military aircraft along with the UN World Food Programme have nourished the encircled town with airdrops until the siege was broken. At the time of writing more than 50 trucks of supplies have entered Deir ez-Zor. The “tunnel” created by the Syrian government is under constant pressure by IS and by no means outright secure yet.

Does Bashar al-Assad and his allies have enough capabilities to hold their positions and take the whole city? With no more major towns under IS control in Syria are we witnessing its end in the Levant?

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Noel Daniel Vig

Political Scientist-Director of The Maghreb and Orient Courier Editions

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