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With ISIS Under Pressure on Every Front, Syrian Army Launches Offensive Against Al-Qaeda

Virtually every front in Syria has been active since the last update

ISIS hurls itself against Deir ez-Zor once more

Pressed on every other front ISIS is attacking in the one area where it still has the upper hand. In recent days it has against stepped up attacks against the long encircled city of Deir ez-Zor.

Truly if there is anyone in Syria who has earned respite and peace it is the defenders and civilians of this Syrian city. Unfortunately at the current pace of operations the siege may not be broken for another year.

The encircled city holds on

Kurds to take Raqqa

Meanwhile, the US-backed Kurds are fighting to capture Raqqa from ISIS. They now have the city isolated between the Euphrates on one side (the bridges have been long demolished by US jets) and Kurdish forces on the outskirts of the city. Thus the fighting for the city will begin any time soon after which it is anyone's guess how long it will take.

Last year it took the same forces two months to actually take the city of Manbij after they encircled it. Given that Manbij is just half the size of Raqqa the battle here could take even longer.

Fighting as part of the SDF in Raqqa is the mainly Kurdish YPG militia, along with a few Arab groups which took Raqqa in 2013 from the government together with ISIS, but were later expelled by the latter group and found refugee with the Kurds.

Time is running out for ISIS in Raqqa

Syrian army makes valuable gains in the north

Syria's elite Tiger Force has crowned its offensive against ISIS in Aleppo province by taking Maskanah. The last significant settlement in the province in ISIS hands. If the rest of the province is cleared of ISIS this will be of great benefit to Aleppo city as the route over which it is supplied will finally be secure from the eastern direction.

These latest advances have also brought the Syrian army within the stone-throw of SDF forces which earlier this year, crossed the Euphrates in a bold US-aided operation and took control of al-Thawrah (The Revolution) dam and town.

In the short term, the Syrian army, and the Kurds both, have their hands full elsewhere, and do not need to expend their energies on fighting each other. In the long run however, it is difficult to see how Damascus can leave this major source of electric power and symbol of progress under Baath in hands of secessionist Kurds.

Advances and withdrawals against ISIS in the Syrian steppe

In the center the march from Palmyra on the road to Deir ez-Zor temporarily stalled.

The Russian-trained "5th Assault Corps" first advanced on this axis but then met with so much ISIS resistance it opted to withdraw again. Apparently ISIS strength in this sector was underestimated, or better said, ISIS has reinforced this sector.  


Nonetheless, a slow-paced advance seems to have resumed since the initial retreat.


Government forces also pressured and made gains against the ISIS salient in eastern Hama. In other words these days ISIS is engaged everywhere everywhere in Syria. In Aleppo, Hama and Palmyra by the Syrian army, in Raqqa by the SDF, and also leading battles against the Syrian army in Deir ez-Zor.

Syrian army launches counter offensive on Tahrir al-Sham in the South

From February until late May this year the rebels sustained an offensive against the Syrian army in and around the southern city of Dara'a which is split in half between the rebels and the army. The offensive was conducted jointly by al-Qaeda's Tahrir al-Sham and their FSA battleground allies but ultimately failed to break the loyalists. Having fought off an enemy offensive the latter have now organized their own.

For days now the Syrian air force has been hitting targets in Dara'a in preparation for the attack. Also elements of the elite Syrian 4th division have moved to the city and are expected to spearhead to attack.

Fireworks in Dara'a

Iraqi militias reach the northern Iraqi-Syrian border

Another offensive relevant to the situation in Syria is unfolding in northern Iraq. Iraqi PMU paramilitaries. In late April they launched an offensive eastwards towards the Syrian border. 80 kilometers and one month later they reached SDF-controled northern Syria.

From there they continued pushing south so that soon they will reach ISIS-held Syria as well. The sympathies of Iraqi paramilitaries are no secret. Last year when Iraq launched the US-directed Mosul Operation the Iraqi militias encircled Mosul area from the west and therefore ruined US plan to leave ISIS a broad exit to Syria.


Thus the question on everyone's mind is when they reach the Syrian border will the Iraqi militias cross over and clear Syrian territory from ISIS as well? In the short term, with so much of Iraq still under ISIS this probably won't happen on a major scale, but eventually Iraqi PMUs getting involved in the race for Syria's Euphrates valley is precisely the scenario the US fears and wishes could prevent by taking control of the Syrian-Iraqi border itself.

April 24


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