The Islamic State (IS) group has ordered the conscription of all men aged 20 to 30 in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, as the militants face the prospect of losing their capital in Raqqa.
A statement released by the group said that all men between the ages of 20 and 30 would be drafted.
“We call on all young Muslim men to head towards our offices as quickly as possible and before the end of a week since we made the call,” it read. “Those who do not will be subjecting themselves to questioning and punishment.”
IS has faced pressure on all sides as it rallies to defend its remaining territories following the fall of Mosul to Iraqi forces last month.
Last week, Syrian government forces said they were nearing the last major town held by Islamic State (IS) in Homs province, part of their multi-pronged advance towards the group’s strongholds in the east of the country.
A military source told AFP that combat operations would accelerate towards the town of al-Sukhna, some 50km from the administrative frontier of Deir ez-Zour province, where IS has redeployed many fighters after losing ground in Syria and Iraq.
“Capturing al-Sukhna means opening the door and path for forces to move to Deir ez-Zour directly,” the source told Reuters, adding that the military had captured positions 8km southwest of the town on Wednesday evening.
According to the pro-government Al-Masdar News site, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad cut off a supply line to the village of Thardeh in the Deir ez-Zour southwestern countryside.
Led by the al-Qassem group of the Republican Guard, the Syrian army reportedly managed to capture one square kilometre of territory around the Deir ez-Zour cemetery following clashes with IS in the west of the province.
Deir ez-Zour, which borders Iraq to the east, is still almost entirely under IS control. The Syrian government has held on to a pocket of territory in the provincial capital of Deir ez-Zour city, and at a nearby air base.
On Friday, the Revolution Commando Army – former a US-backed rebel group named the New Syrian Army – announced it would also be moving on IS positions in Deir Ezzor alongside other opposition groups.
In April 2014, IS drove out Syrian opposition forces from Deir ez-Zour while pro-government troops remained in control of several neighbourhoods and the military airport.
The push for Deir ez-Zour comes as US-backed forces have advanced in Raqqa’s south, seizing a new neighbourhood.
The Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) began a campaign to capture Raqqa from IS last year, slowly encircling the city before breaking into it for the first time in June.
Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, the alliance now controls more than 50 percent of the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.
More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests.