On Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the strategic Uqayribat town in the eastern Hama countryside is now under a full control of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
The ministry added that the operation was actively supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that ISIS fighters killed 7 Russian soldiers in Uqayribat town. Amaq published photos of the bodies of only two dead “Russian” fighters. However, the killed persons were likely some private military contractors or members of some pro-government militia.
ISIS has started a large-scale propaganda campaign claiming large casualties among pro-government forces, including Russian military service members. Earlier this week, ISIS claimed that its members have killed two Russian service members in the same area.
Moreover, Amaq claimed that 10 SAA soldiers were killed in a VBIED attack on their positions in al-Na’aimah village east of Uqayribat town.
ISIS Hunters claimed earlier that ISIS fighters launched a counter attack on Uqayribat town. According to the SAA 5th Assault Corps’ ISIS Hunters, women and children suicide bombers were among the attackers.
The SAA battle against ISIS in the eastern Hama countryside could be considered one of the hardest battles against ISIS in Syria so far. Hundreds of ISIS fighters remained in the area after the SAA failed to push them out in the beginning of 2017.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies reached Bir Ghabaghib village on the al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzor highway, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria. The SAA is now less than 40km away from Deir Ezzor city.
However, according to pro-government sources, the SAA has not captured Bir Ghabaghib yet. Bir Ghabaghib and al-Shula villages are the last two ISIS-held positions on the al-Sukhnah-Deir Ezzor Highway.
The SAA will likely work to secure its northern and southern flanks before advancing towards these villages.