On September 19, Syrian government forces consolidated their gains on the eastern bank of the Euphrates securing Sabha, Mazlum and Marat villages, and stormed ISIS positions in Khusham village northeast of Deir Ezzor.
The advancec on Khasham was allegedly spearheaded by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 5th Assault Corps’ ISIS Hunters.
At the same day, the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that 3 Russian soldiers have been killed near Khusham. Amaq released graphic photos aiming to confirm the claims. However, photos allow to suggest that the killed fighters were likely private military contractors (PMCs) supporting the SAA advance.
Russia-linked PMCs are actively participating in the operation in Deir Ezzor province. While Russian military servicemen in general play a role of military advisers, Russia-linked PMCs may be involved in a direct combat against ISIS. Some sources link the successfull crossing of the Euphrates by government forces with a deep involvement of this force in the combat.
On September 20, a fighting continued between the SAA and ISIS in Khusham. Government troops entered the village, but didn’t captured it yet.
If the village is liberated, government forces will be able to expand its control in the both eastern and western directions.
On September 19 and 20, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) further advanced against ISIS in an attempt to reach the Euphrates from the northern direction. Firefights between the SDF and ISIS were reporrted near Husaniyah, Jiyan and Maishiyah.
Meanwhile, US-backed forces started moving a large number of military equipment to Deir Ezzor frontlines. Photos of at least one military column appeared online. Syrian analysts say the US-led coalition and the SDF will attempt to prevent the SAA advance on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Summing up the recent developments, it’s clear that the both Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance and US-led coalition have notable chances to seize oil and gas infrastructure located east of Deir Ezzor on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The result of this race will depend on the ability of the sides to concentrate striking forces that could achieve this goal in a relatively short term.