The Islamic State siege of Deir Ezzor has ended after Syrian army forces broke through to an enclave of their own soldiers who had been surrounded for three years.
The Syrian regime has been making progress against ISIS positions for several months, with assistance from Hezbollah and air support from Russia. Yesterday, the soldiers reached the outskirts of the eastern Syrian town, before state news agency SANA confirmed that they had broken the siege.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad congratulated his forces, saying: “Today you stood side-by-side with your comrades who came to your rescue and fought the hardest battles to break the siege on the city.”
Syrian Army command called Deir Ezzor a “launching pad to expand military operations in the region” and “a strategic turn in the war against terrorism”.
Russia’s Defence Ministry confirmed that a Russian warship had launched cruise missiles at ISIS targets in Deir Ezzor from the Mediterranean, successfully destroying command centres, ammunition depots and an armoured vehicle repair workshop.
Deir Ezzor had been split between an ISIS and government controlled part since 2015, and ISIS still controls much of Deir Ezzor province, including half the city. The town was the capital of Syria’s oil industry and had been a major source of income for ISIS.
In another defeat for ISIS, US backed Arab and Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) soldiers have retaken the old city in Raqqa and are now preparing for an assault on the best-defended ISIS enclaves in the city.
Losing both Deir Ezzor and Raqqa would represent a significant step towards ISIS’s territorial defeat.