Eastern desert: continuous clashes and bombing, but little change in territorial control for the past month

With the focus of many warring parties shifting to the cities of Aleppo and Manbij, there has been little change in the frontlines of the eastern Syrian desert. The Syrian Arab Army, struggling to hold onto their territory in Aleppo, has shifted much of its strength to the crucial northern city, while the Islamic State has been desperate to reverse the course of battle in northern Syria after multiple defeats at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Kurdish fighters. Despite this turn of events, fighting continues in the east as both sides continue to attempt advances in the rural deserts of Homs, Tadmur, and Deir-ez-Zor.

Fighting in Tadmur and rural Homs has been focused on Sha’er Gas Field and the rural area south of Arak Gas Field, as Islamic State forces repeatedly attacked SAA units, inflicting significant personnel and material casualties. IS fighters shot down a RuAF Mi-35M providing air support east of the city of Tadmur, and destroyed no less than ten regime vehicles during the month of July, including four tanks. Despite these losses, the government has not suffered significant loss in territory, and has defended positions near Talilah and the grain silos thanks to the help of Iraqi militias and Afghan fighters deployed to the area.

Deir-ez-Zor has seen several attempts by ISIS soldiers to capture ground from the SAA, most of which have been met with failure so far. Despite constant airstrikes by the RuAF and SyAAF, the Islamic State has continued to pull supplies and troops into Deir-ez-Zor and launch assaults on SAA positions both in the north and south areas of the city. Multiple ISIS offensives in the Sina’a and Bughaliyah districts were repelled between July 7th and 15th, and several violent attacks on Jabal Thardeh and the defenses of the Military Airbase were forced back with significant casualties for the attackers. Both sides have used ATGMs to great effect against armor and vehicles. RuAF cargo planes continue to resupply the city from the air, but supplies of medicine and necessities are reportedly low and the proximity of ISIS fighters to the airbase makes landings and takeoffs treacherous, necessitating resupply by airdrop more often than landing.

Farther south, the New Syrian Army has clashed with ISIS and seized some supplies and vehicles from them, but has also suffered its own share of defeats in the deserts south of al-Bukamal. The group has currently remained centered in al-Tanf, where they have supposedly been regrouping and retraining for future attacks. With the Iraqi Army preparing assaults on ISIS border posts and clearing western Anbar, it is only a matter of time before the NySA will need to strike to secure the Syrian border. Currently, they are holding their ground and waiting.

Little of note has transpired in Raqqa and eastern Homs. Both fronts have been fairly inactive beyond minor skirmishes and mortar shelling.

ISIS fighter fires an ATGM at government positions near Talilah, east of Tadmur.

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