Battle to break siege on Syria's Deir al-Zour imminent as IS loses Al-Sukhnah city

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/8/14 9:37:52

The black flag of the Islamic State (IS) group is all that is left in the strategic city of Al-Sukhnah in central Syria, after the Syrian army and allied fighters recently took hold of the city, deemed as the gate to Deir al-Zour province in the east.

Called the "strategic heart of Syria," Al-Sukhnah city in the eastern countryside of Homs province in central Syria has finally fallen to the Syrian army and allied fighters, following intense battles and heavy airstrikes against the terror-designated group, which had been in control of the city for two and a half years.

On Saturday, the Syrian army announced its full recapture of the city, which was the last IS stronghold in the eastern countryside of Homs.

Located in the Syrian desert, some 70 km east of Palmyra city in eastern Homs, Al-Sukhnah was so important for IS as it was its supply hub between Homs and Deir al-Zour as well as to the IS-held areas in the eastern countryside of Hama province in central Syria.

Capturing Al-Sukhnah, only 55 km from the western administrative borders of Deir al-Zour, is the crucial point for the army to break the years-long IS siege on the city of Deir al-Zour.

Civilians have been suffering from the siege as well as Syrian soldiers trapped inside, with Syrian helicopters conducting airdrops of food and aid to the besieged people in the few government-controlled areas inside the oil-rich Deir al-Zour.

At the entrance of Al-Sukhnah flags of the allied fighters of the Syrian army were fixed atop the sign that feature the Islamic State black flag.

Like any other former IS-held area, the destruction in the city was immense, with destroyed buildings and blown up concrete.

Holes were seen everywhere on ground, in what appeared to be part of the demining of the area that was heavily booby-trapped by IS ahead of their withdrawal to Deir al-Zour.

All street signs in the city were blackened by IS as Syrian soldiers and allied fighters were still roaming the city and inspecting the shattered buildings and homes.

Russian soldiers were also seen entering and leaving the city with their modern military gears, as the Russian air force played a significant role in hammering the IS positions in the city.

Sporadic crackles of gunfire are still being heard reverberating from a distance, adding to the eerie landscape of the city.

Some soldiers say clashes with IS are still taking place at the outskirts of the city, as part of the military forces' efforts to expand the security parameter of Al-Sukhnah.

They say that the army has so far created a security perimeter of 15 km around the city, meaning that after the 15 km the battles with IS are still ongoing to drive them out of the few pockets remaining between Al-Sukhnah and the western administrative borders of Deir al-Zour.

The Arabic name Al-Sukhnah means "hot" in English, and that was the situation in the city and the battles that led to its capture.

Military officers didn't divulge the time spent to capture the city, but they said it was part of a series of operations, which have started after the army captured the ancient city of Palmyra in March 2017.

The military operations in the desert and particularly after Palmyra have enabled the Syrian army to capture several oil and gas fields between Palmyra and Al-Sukhnah.

A military officer, refused to be named, told reporters at the site that those energy fields were put to service following their recapture from IS, which had controlled much of the Syrian oil and fields in eastern Syria, depriving the country of one of its major revenues.

He said the city is the key to Deir al-Zour and Raqqa, both main strongholds for the IS militants in Syria.

The countryside of the city is also rich with gas fields.

It's the third angle in a triangle that includes Raqqa and Deir al-Zour. It's also the launch pad to any advance to any part of Syria despite the distances.

It allows for a quick progress to the eastern countryside of Hama, and to the Iraqi or Jordanian borders in the Syrian desert.

"All supply routes of the terrorists have been cut between several Syrian cities. This city was a hub to terror groups as it was filled up with ammunition depots sending arms to several Syrian cities," the officer said.

He vowed that "we promise our people in Deir al-Zour that we are coming no matter how much we will sacrifice for this fight and we will reach Deir al-Zour."

Posted in: MID-EAST

blog comments powered by Disqus