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Syrian Army Advance Encircles Last ISIS Stronghold in Central Syria

The last connection between any two populated areas of Syria held by ISIS has been severed

After marching some 25 kilometers in a day the Syrian army has cut the ISIS salient in eastern Hama/Homs from its hinterland and formed it into a pocket. This is highly significant. It means the last three ISIS strongholds in Syria are now all physically disconnected from each other.

The city of Raqqa has been fully encircled by the Kurdish-dominated SDF since late June. The SDF is now trying to take the actual city but has been able to make only slow progress, with about half of Raqqa still in ISIS hands.

This leaves the Euphrates river valley in eastern Syria and settlements in eastern Hama/Homs as the only other populated parts of Syria still in ISIS hands. Since today the two areas are cut off from each other, and the Hama/Homs is a fully encircled pocket with the Syrian army on all sides.

ISIS-held Syria still looks big on a map but can be summed up as no more than:

  • The very narrow fertile belt on the Euphrates' banks in the east.
  • Vast swathes of almost uninhabited desert.
  • A few populated, but fully-encircled and besieged enclaves like Raqqa, Yarmouk and east Hama/Homs in central and western Syria.

With east Hama isolated the government army can continue advance to Deir ez-Zor in the east without fear of surprises against their supply lines, albeit it may still want to wrap up things completely in the west first.

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