The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces, the Syrian Republican Guard (SRG), Hezbollah and their allies are consolidating their gains in the Deir Ezzor countryside, on the western bank of the Euphrates River.
On Sunday, pro-government forces fully secured the areas of Jafrah, Ayyash, Tal Kuriya on the both northwestern and southeastern flanks of Deir Ezzor city. With these gains, the SAA and the SRG fully encircled ISIS units inside Deir Ezzor city on the western bank.
Furthermore, the SAA and its allies continued their advance against ISIS in the both directions and seized additional positions near Jafrah and Ayyash. ISIS counter-attacks were repelled.
A fighting was also reported inside Deir Ezzor on the frontline between government forces and ISIS units. However, no gains were made by the both sides.
Control over Jafrah also opens an additional opportunity to advance on the ISIS-held Sakr island. If the SAA and its allies choose this way, the island could be turned in a useful foothold for further operations on the other bank of the Euphrates.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) the 7 Kilo roundabout and all factories around it north of Deir Ezzor, the group said in an official statement. The 7 Kilo roundabout is located in about 7km from the Euphrates. In other words, so far, the SDF has not reached the river bank.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, rejected US claims that the Russian Aerospace Forces had targeted the SDF on September 16.
He added that Russian forces conduct strikes on the both sides of the Euphrates and that the Russian military has not observed a fighting between the SDF and ISIS over the past few days. The general said that “only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question” how the SDF has advanced so far with no fighting against ISIS. The strikes on the eastern bank of the Euphrates show that the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance sees its as an area of its military operations.
Syrian experts believe that the SDF is in fortunate position on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. A major part of the oil-gas infrastructure in Deir Ezzor province is located on this bank of the river and ISIS shows little resistance to the US-backed force. On the other hand, the ongoing advance of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Iraqi Army towards the ISIS-held border town of al-Qaim could change the situation. Many PMU factions particiapte in an anti-ISIS campaign of the Syrian government inside Syria. These factiosn could cross the border and to assist the SAA in its advance towards al-Bukamal. The liberation of al-Bukamal is another option to open a way for an advance alongside the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Meanwhile, A pro-Turkish Syrian news media outlet “Qasioun” reported that Syrian government forces had crossed the Euphrates. According to Qasioun, Mohammed Khalid Shaker, a spokesperson for Jaysh al-Nukhba, said on September 17 that crossing of the Euphrates is a part of the US-Russia deal over Syria.
On September 16, the Jaysh al-Nukhba spokesman argued that the alleged Russian airstrike on the SDF north of Deir Ezzor is just a part of the Russian military strategy in the area. He told Qasioun that Russia “is propping SDF project that is contrary to Syria’s unity as a priority in the political process.”
Jaysh al-Nukhba (or the Elite Army) is a Turkish-backed faction of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) operating in western Syria. Turkish and pro-Turkish media covering the conflict as well as representatives of the Turkish-backed “moderate” FSA factions remain critical towards the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance. However, it’s clear that they shift their attitude further and further as Turkey, Iran, Syria and Russia develop their diplomatic vision of the conflict in Syria thourgh the Astana format. This also impacts the Turkey-led forces attitude towards the situation in eastern Syria.