The Battle For Deir ez-Zour Moves To Outskirts As The Siege Is Broken

Heavy fighting between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and ISIS around Deir ez-Zour City continues. Since the government forces broke the ISIS siege on the beleaguered city on Tuesday, the militants have launched numerous counterattacks in a bid to regain their lost advantage.

So far, the militant attacks have concentrated on the SAA corridor opened  west of the 137th Brigade Base along the northwest axis of the city. This corridor leads to the government-held parts of the city itself. The control of the corridor is therefore vital towards bringing further relief into the civilians who have been under ISIS siege for three years. Over the course of the week, ISIS was able to block the corridor on a number of occasions, but so far they have not been able to hold it. On Thursday evening, a convoy of 40 trucks carrying supplies entered the city through this corridor, suggesting that the government forces have now consolidated control over the roads here.

The fighting has since moved to the surrounding countryside, with two major fronts emerging. The first is the M20 Palmyra-Deir ez-Zour Highway. As the name suggests, this Highway leads from the city of Palmyra in the Homs Province and offers a more direct route to the government-held parts of Syria. Control over the road would therefore ease logistical challenges associated with bringing supplies into Deir ez-Zour.

The second front is the area surrounding the Deir ez-Zour Military Airbase which still remains under ISIS siege. The base used to have a direct link to the rest of the city through the Deir ez-Zour Provincial Cemetery and the Port Said Road. This link, however, was cut in 2016, splitting the besieged enclave into two.

Once these areas and the rest of the city is secured, it is expected that the SAA will start moving towards the city of Mayadin. Located along the Euphrates River in the western Deir ez-Zour countryside, this city represents the last urban holdout of the militant group, and many of its leaders have reportedly taken shelter here.