Eastern desert: ISIS withdrawing from multiple positions

6/9/16 – As major offensives continue to hammer the Islamic State on multiple fronts, the organization has been forced to withdraw from many positions in the past couple of days. Under pressure in both Syria and Iraq, ISIS has been unable to hold rural ground and is quickly retreating towards more defensible urban areas.

Although ISIS is not close to collapse yet, it is suffering significant defeats on the battlefield that have sapped their reserves of manpower and supplies. The SDF (known also as the Qazen Suriya Demokratik, QSD) has been making a rapid offensive against the northern Syrian city of Manbij, and the Iraqi Army has been slowly gaining ground around Fallujah, a city that has been controlled by ISIS since 2014. Faced with such pressure on major cities across their self-proclaimed caliphate, ISIS has been forced to abandon many positions, and has been routed from many others.

In the eastern desert areas of Syria the SAA, supported by militias and local tribesmen, has been on the offensive in both ar-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, claiming successes of varying magnitude in both governorates. The former offensive has seen a large amount of ground gained as the SAA and Suquor al-Sahara advance rapidly; clashes have been fairly minor in scale, as ISIS has continually backtracked across the desert and abandoned positions they had previously held. Three more villages, Harbiyat, Bir Nabaj, and Anbaj, have been captured in the past couple of days, and the advance continues towards Tabqa Air Base. The army is now within 30km of Tabqa and 50km of ar-Raqqa, and have suffered minimal casualties in their advance.

In Deir-ez-Zor, the SAA has been struggling to recapture territory but has managed to regain high ground on Tall Thardah, and took several minor strategic points overlooking the southern reaches of the city. Sporadic clashes continue as the government attempts to retake Thayyem Oil Field, which they were routed from last week. So far, neither side is gaining much ground; ISIS attacks against the outlying defenses of the crucial city Airbase have failed repeatedly, while the government is struggling to take control of the high ground on Thardah. The SyAAF continues constant operations in and around the city as fighting continues.

 

An SAA fighter engages ISIS defensive positions on Tall Thardah, June 8th.

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