On June 24, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) kicked off a large-scale combing operation to end ISIS presence in the southern Raqqa countryside.
The army’s 17th Division, 25th Special Mission Forces Division and the 5th Corps are reportedly leading the operation, which is mainly taking place in the outskirts of the town of al-Resafa and in Mount al-Bishri. Russian military officers are reportedly providing advise to Syrian troops.
In support of the operation, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out more than 50 airstrikes on ISIS hideouts in the southern countryside of Raqqa.
The operation was launched in response to the June 20 central Syria ambush. At least 11 service members of the SAA and two civilians who were traveling from Raqqa to Homs in a bus were killed by ISIS cells during the ambush.
ISIS cells in central Syria expanded their influence into the southern Raqqa in the last two years, likely to get as close as possible to their comrades in the northeastern region. The terrorists appear to be trying to turn the area into one of their main strongholds in Syria.
The success of the SAA’s new operation is not guaranteed as ISIS cells could opt to avoid any direct confrontation by hiding in remote parts of the southern Raqqa countryside. The army and its allies will have to move fast and strike with full force.