SYRIAN FORCES ARE HUNTING DOWN ISIS TERRORISTS IN DESERT

South Front

South Front

The military situation in Syria continued deteriorating in the recent days.

On August 21, the Syrian Army and its allies increased their anti-ISIS raids in the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor-Al-Mayadin triangle. According to pro-government sources, these efforts are being actively supported by recently deployed reinforcements from the Iranian-backed Liwa Fatemiyoun armed group.

On August 20, ISIS claimed responsibility for the recent attack on Russian troops in the province of Deir Ezzor.  The attack, which took place on August 18, killed Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Gladkih and injured two other Russian service members. In a statement released by its news agency, Amaq, ISIS claimed that a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which had been planted by its terrorists east of the town of al-Sukhnah in eastern Homs, struck a Russian patrol that was combing the region.

Earlier, the Russian military said that the incident took place near the al-Taim oil field, which is indeed located to the east of al-Sukhnah, in the western Deir Ezzor countryside. These details play into the hand of the ISIS propaganda. According to Syrian government sources, a few hundreds of ISIS members take shelter in the Homs-Deir Ezzor countryside. These terrorists pose a notable security threat to pro-government forces, but they claim that the full elimination of the ISIS cells in the desert is not possible as long as the US occupies the al-Tanf area.

Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Iraqi pro-Iranian group, is reinforcing its military positions in the southern countryside of Syria’s Deir Ezzor, according to pro-government sources. Kata’ib Hezbollah fighters are currently building fortifications around their positions in the outskirt of the city of al-Mayadin.

The situation is also tense on the contact line between the army and militants in southern Idlib. According to pro-militant sources, at least 2 opposition fighters were killed in Syrian Army strikes in al-Bara and other areas in the al-Zawiya mount.

The string of assassinations of former rebel commanders continues in southern Syria. An attack with an improvised explosive device killed Issa Al-Janati, a former rebel commander in al-Quneitra. The IED attack took place near the commander’s house in the town of al-Zubaidah in the al-Quneitra countryside on August 17. Al-Janati died of his wounds, while his wife was slightly injured. Al-Janati, who is known by his nom de guerre “Abu Wassim,” used to be a senior commander in the Free Syrian Army. In 2018, he joined the reconciliation process. Nevertheless, he refused to enlist in the Syrian Arab Army or any pro-government faction.

This was the first assassination of a former rebel commander in al-Quneitra. Such assassinations take place in Daraa province on a regular basis. Local sources link them with the increased activity of Israeli special services that are not happy to see how their former proxies are changing their public position.

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Idlib Militants Use Battle Tanks To Kill Each Others Under Turkish Nose

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ISIS announced a new series of attacks against the Syrian Army in the Homs-Deir Ezzor desert. According to the terrorist group’s news agency Amaq, ISIS cells ambushed an army unit near the town of al-Sukhna killing 2 soldiers, injuring a third one and capturing a vehicle. This attack became the second successful ISIS raid in the desert area in less than a week. The previous one took place south of al-Mayadin and resulted in the killing of 8 Syrian troops.

On June 25 and June 26, the Syrian Air Force and the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted intense airstrikes on the detected ISIS hideouts south of the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. According to pro-government sources, at least one weapon depot and 2 vehicles were eliminated. The precise number of ISIS casualties remains unclear.

The pro-Turkish coalition of militant groups, the National Front for Liberation, repelled an imaginary attack of Russian special forces in southern Idlib. According to militants, they killed 2 Russian personnel and 2 Syrian soldiers in intense fighting in the village of Benin on June 25. The only problem with this version is that neither the Syrian Army nor Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the area, according to local sources.

Clashes between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and militants from the Fa Ithbatu coalition continue in the countryside of Idlib. The sides briefly reached a tactical ceasefire on June 25 and even removed checkpoints between Idlib city mostly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the town of Jisr al-Shughur, which is the Fa Ithbatu rear base.

Nonetheless, as of June 26 the fighting once again resumed after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham attacked positions of Horas al-Din and Ansar al-Din near the villages of Yacubiyeh and al-Janoudiyah. Intense fighting was also ongoing near Arab Said. Local sources claim that both sides are now using battle tanks.

According to supporters of Fa Ithbatu, the al-Qaeda-linked coalition captured 2 battle tanks belonging to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and damaged another one. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham says it’s ready to accept a ceasefire only if Horas al-Din, Ansar al-Din and other members of Fa Ithbatu remove checkpoints that they have established near Idlib city over the past few days.

Control over the movement of goods and people in the Idlib countryside is one of the pillars of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham influence and allows it to collect various fees and fines there. So, the group sees any presence of other forces on key roads in Greater idlib as a threat to its interests. Currently, the main opposition to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is located in Jisr al-Shughur.

The main point of contradiction between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups is that Fa Ithbatu wants its own share of the revenue, which can be collected by exploiting the militant-held part of Greater Idlib. This sets the conditions for further confrontation until a new balance of power within the militant-held area is found.

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