On September 28, ISIS fighters launched a large advance against government troops at the Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway. ISIS terrorists captured Bir Ghabaghib town west of al-Shula town, according to the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq. Moreover, Amaq claimed that ISIS fighters captured the strategic Tantur mount that’s overlooking al-Sukhnah town.
Initial reports of pro-government and oppositions sources claimed that ISIS fighters even captured al-Sukhnah. However, the Syria pro-government Muraselon news website reported that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) recaptured Bir Ghabaghib, and is now preparing to repulse the ISIS attack.
Amaq claimed that ISIS fighters killed 33 SAA soldiers, and captured 2 others during the clashes. Amaq also claimed that its members killed a Russian solider and captured 2 others during the attack. The Russian Defense Ministry rejected these claims.
The Syrian military closed the highway because of the ongoing clashes. The Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway is a major government supply line to Deir Ezzor city. It’s used to transfer aid, troops and military equipment to the battle zone.
ISIS likely took advantage on a Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attack in the northern Hama countryside on September 19 that pushed the SAA to dedeploy its best units including the Tiger Forces from Deir Ezzor governorate to northern Hama. Furthermore, the Russian Air Force shifted its air campaign focusing on HTS in Idlb during the last week.
Meanwhile, the SAA and its allies advanced north of Deir Ezzor city on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river towards Hatlah Fawqani village. On September 26 the SAA captured Hatlah Tahtani village south of Hatlah Fawqani.
If the SAA manages to capture Halat Faq village, the ISIS-held districts inside Deir Ezzor city and Saqr Island will be under full siege by the SAA. However, the SAA will not likely launch its final attack inside Deir Ezzor city before repelling ISIS attack east of al-Sukhnah town.
Meanwhile, clashes between ISIS and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued in al-Suwar village northeast of Deir Ezzor city. Amaq claimed that the SDF lost 4 fighters and a vehicle in the clashes there on September 28.
UPDATE: Kurdish forces officially announced few moments ago that the SDF captured al-Suwar.
— Rojava Defense Units (@DefenseUnits) 28 September 2017