Islamic State Launches Counteroffensive in Eastern Syria
DEIR EZ-ZOR GOVERNORATE (OCTOBER 13, 2018) – With the ongoing offensive by the SDF and other Kurdish-allied factions and the US Coalition against Islamic State (IS) in the Hajin basin pocket, the Islamic State militants were able to launch a counteroffensive and retake significant areas of land lost earlier.
Much of Eastern Syria and Western Iraq have experienced tense desert sandstorms over the past 10 days, including Deir ez-Zor and the Hajin pocket in the province. Islamic State (IS) militants have historically used sandstorms to launch counteroffensives, including this one.
Violent clashes took place in the northern and southern fronts of the Hajin pocket between SDF and IS. IS seeks to benefit from the sandstorm due to a lack of visibility from SDF ground forces as well as aerial aircraft, including that of the participating US Coalition.
IS claims to have captured at least a dozen SDF fighters, kill approximately 20, and destroy 2 military vehicles. The YPJ was able to repel a counterattack towards Baghuz and destroyed 2 IS military vehicles as well.
Although IS made significant gains inside the Hajin pocket in the counterattack, it is not expected that IS will keep and solidify these gains. Tensions are expected to lower after the sandstorm subsides. It is important to note that IS does not have any supply routes to the Hajin pocket from any other IS-held area in Syria, meaning munition continues to deplete. The SDF, despite losing 2 significant supply lines between towns on the outskirts of the pocket, will readily have munition and are not in limited quantity.