Eastern desert: continuous clashes in Tadmur and Deir-ez-Zor; SDF begins offensive on Raqqa
The rural eastern areas of Syria have seen continuous, low-level clashes and skirmishes between the Islamic State (IS) and other groups. Although little in the way of territory has been gained by any side, this trend is certain to change with the announcement of the “Euphrates Wrath” campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the arrival of several fresh brigades of SAA soldiers to the desert city of Tadmur.
On November 6th, the press office of the SDF announced the beginning of the “Wrath of Euphrates” operation, the prolonged campaign to liberate the city of ar-Raqqa from IS1. Although the offensive has only just begun and mobilization of available units is still ongoing, gains against IS forces in the northern countryside of Raqqa have already been reported2. Despite receiving condemnations from local organizations3 regarding the offensive, the military commanders of the SDF and YPG have given the go-ahead for a push all the way to the city proper. Operation Inherent Resolve aircraft have provided fire support for the units on the ground, although it is unknown how many aerial operations have been performed so far4.
In the countryside of Tadmur, sporadic clashes have been occurring but little has changed in terms of territorial control. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has repelled several IS attacks on Tadmur outskirts in the past month5, but has failed to capitalize on these successes. Despite a constant barrage of mortar shells and suicide attacks, government forces have held their ground in rural Tadmur, and recently managed to recapture Maher Oil Field after constant fighting with IS elements6. Although information on casualties is sparse, IS has published several videos showing weapons and armor looted from retreating SAA personnel, and managed to hit a Russian Air Force (RuAF) attack helicopter after it landed due to an engine malfunction7. These videos make it clear that, despite coming under heavy pressure on multiple fronts, IS does not intend to abandon any region it still has some control of.
The region of Deir-ez-Zor has seen clashes and many suicide attacks by IS, but no major incidents have characterized this sporadic fighting. The frontlines remain unchanged despite offensives by both sides.