[UPDATED] Tadmur: ISIS loses territory near Arak, but makes gains farther west
Throughout the past week, sporadic clashes have been occurring in the arid rural landscape between the cities of Tadmur and Hama, with the Islamic State and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) constantly countering one another in a bid to gain control of several strategic points scattered across the region. Ever since the recapture of the city of Tadmur, the SAA has been steadily gaining ground against the Islamic State, although they have seen their setbacks and have failed to gain any significant points.
Recently, the SAA has been seeing success in the eastern reaches of Tadmur, but have suffered heavy casualties in a surprise Islamic State offensive in the Hama desert, an offensive that resulted in the terror group seizing control of Hweises and several checkpoints east of Jubb al-Jarrah. In Tadmur, a recent ISIS counteroffensive directed at Jabal al-Mazar was repulsed by the SAA defenders, who went on to seize Jabal Zalfah and parts of Jabal Mustadirah before their efforts to gain ground were halted. Currently, the SAA is heavily engaged with Islamic State defenders near the town of Arak, which is about fifteen kilometers northeast of Tadmur.
Should the SAA succeed in their offensive on Arak, the route to the critical town of Soukneh and the city of Deir-ez-Zor will be open. However, given recent Islamic State successes to the west in Hama, the government may be forced to dig in and hold the territory it has gained. For now, heavy fighting continues, with the SAA receiving air support from RuAF helicopters.
UPDATE: As of 1400 hours Damascus time, the Islamic State had managed to seize parts of the crucial Sha’er Gas Field in northern Palmyra, prompting an immediate counteroffensive by the SAA. Although the government has managed to recapture several checkpoints in the Sha’er vicinity, it is reported that they suffered moderate losses in the initial assault. Despite RuAF airstrikes hitting ISIS checkpoints and a reinforcement column, the SAA has so far failed to reverse most of the enemy’s gains. Farther north, the town of Arak is being shelled but no major assault is ongoing.