On September 20, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Syrian Republican Guard (SRG), the National Defense Forces (NDF) and other pro-government factions seized Masrab, Turayf, Buwaytiyah and Tibni villages and the Salim Mount from ISIS on the western bank of the Euphrates River.
At the same day, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a military operation against ISIS vowing to reach the border with Iraq. The SDF advanced towards the ISIS-held town of al-Suwar and captured 12km of a highway heading to it.
Reports also circulated that some side conducted an airdrop on the Conco Gas Plant north of Khusham. Initial reports suggested that the airdrop was made by government forces. Others argued that it was conducted by the US-led coalition. However, by September 21, no videos or photos had appeared confirming these reports.
On September 21, clashes continued between government forces and ISIS in Khusham town on the eastern bank of the Euphrates where the SAA and the SRG were attempting to break the ISIS defense and to expand its control zone in order to further encircle ISIS in Deir Ezzor city and to set a foothold for an advance towards al-Busayrah.
Government troops destroyed two ISIS vehicles in Deir Ezzor province:
The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russian forces will strike any forces, including the US-backed SDF, that would attack Syrian government forces in the Deir Ezzor countryside.
Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that the Russian side warned the US command in Al Udeid, Qatar, that “any attempts of shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed.”
“Firing points in these areas will be immediately suppressed by all means of destruction,” Konashenkov said.
The statement followed multiple claims by the SDF and the US-led coalition that they will “defend” themselves from alleged attacks of government forces. Earlier this month, the SDF even threatened to not allow government forces to cross the Euphrates River.
— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) 18 September 2017
Konashenkov added that “the Syrian governmental troops have been shelled twice from the areas on the western bank of the Euphrates controlled by the Syrian Democratoc Forces and the US military.” This likely was a reason why Russia announced its decision to bomb any side what would attack government troops and Russian special task forces.
The Russian military spokesman added that the SDF is redeploying forces from Raqqah to Deir Ezzor frontlines.
ISIS uses an armed DIY drone in order to stop government forces crossing the Euphrates River:
Islamic State released footage showing that they target the SAA with drones while they cross the Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor: pic.twitter.com/lbioqwXPPc
— TheMoroccanBaathist (@MorocanArab) 20 September 2017
An Iranian convoy delivered 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to civilians in Deir Ezzor city:
Russian Special Operations Forces service members are in Deir Ezzor city: