Syrian troops are now at the gates of the Islamic State-besieged city of Deir ez-Zor, the governor of the province said, as the government forces continue to press forward, obliterating terrorist positions in the vicinity and on the outskirts of the city.
“The heroes of the army will arrive at Deir ez-Zor in 24-48 hours at the most,” the governor of Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province, Mohammed Ibrahim Samra, told Reuters, adding that the Syrian Army was only 18-20 kilometers (11-12 miles) away from the city.
Earlier, an elite unit of the Syrian Army, called the Tiger Forces, came within 18 kilometers (11 miles) of the besieged city after destroying IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist positions on the Bishri mountain chain, Al-Masdar News reported.
Despite massive redeployment of fighters and military hardware by the Islamic State terrorists from other parts of Iraq and Syria to Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Army, with the help of the Russian Air Force, has been advancing toward the city on several fronts.
The key Euphrates city of Deir ez-Zor has been under terrorist siege for two and a half years, after being cut off from government-held areas in May 2015 during the jihadists’ offensive on Palmyra. The surrounded city, alongside a neighboring military base and airfield, have since been supplied with food and ammunition via airdrops by Russian and Syrian transport planes and helicopters.
On Sunday, the Syrian Army attacked IS barricades on the southwestern outskirts of the city, Sana news agency reported, killing several terrorists and seizing their weapons and ammunition.
“We carried out at dawn a successful raid against one of ISIS terrorists’ barricades in the direction of the Water Resources area through crawling and infiltrating it and throwing several bombs when we almost approached the area, killing all the terrorists at the site,” one of the soldiers told Sana.
The Syrian Army units have also expanded control in al-Badia, “eliminating the last gatherings of the organization in Hreibsha area that is located in the southwest of Deir Ezzor province.” According to Sana news agency, many terrorists have fled as the army is also advancing east of al-Sukhneh toward Deir ez-Zor.
The Russian Defense Ministry has previously stated that breaking the blockade of Deir ez-Zor will mark the defeat of the last capable grouping of IS terrorists in Syria.
“ISIL militants are still attempting to stop the advancement of the Syrian troops by relocating to the Deir ez-Zor region armor, pick-up trucks with high-caliber machine guns mounted on them, weapons and ammunition. They are creating fortifications with positions for artillery and mortars,” the Russian Defense Ministry reported Saturday.
In response, the Russian forces in Syria intensified airstrikes on the jihadists, destroying their armored vehicles, tanks, artillery positions and supply depots.
“Defeating ISIL in the Deir ez-Zor region and lifting the blockade of the city will signify a strategic defeat of the international terrorist group in Syria,” the ministry said.
On Saturday, the Russian Air Force also backed the swift actions of the army and its allies who have liberated the town of Akerbat – considered to be the last major terrorist stronghold in Hama province and central Syria.
Lifting the Deir ez-Zor blockade will “provide Syrian armed forces and their allies with a really stable foothold in this part of northeast Syria,” geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT.
“Strategically, you can’t say enough about how important this effort is right now,” he added. “Having a strategic partner like Russia with a viable air force, being able to coordinate targeting intelligence, being able to mount counter-insurgency efforts on the ground with air support, is incredible.”
The UN’s special envoy for Syria, Steffan de Mistura, also expects all major IS positions in Syria to fall by the end of October.
“What we are seeing is in my opinion the beginning of the end of this war… what we need to make sure is that this becomes also the beginning of peace,” de Mistura said on Friday. “And that is where the challenge starts at this very moment.”