The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces and the National Defense Forces (NDF) have reportedly reached the Euphrates River south of the ISIS-held city of Raqqah and cut off the Al-Bukamal-Aleppo highway in the area.
According to pro-government sources, the Tiger Forces and the NDF have recaptured Al-Dakhilah, Bir Al-Sabkhawi, and Al-Sabkhawi from ISIS terrorists in the southern countryside of Raqqah. With this move, government forces took control of a part of the Al-Bukamal-Aleppo highway that may be used for a push to Deir Ezzor.
Thus, the army and its allies repeaed the al-Bab-style operation when they built a buffer zone in order to stop a possible Turksih advance into central Syria. Control over the Al-Bukamal-Aleppo highway prevents a possible US-backed operation in the direction of Deir Ezzor from the area of Raqqah.
Photos show government forces in the area of Sabkhawi:
From its side ISIS announced that its fighters managed to recapture an SAA position east of the Al-Heel field in the eastern Homs countryside. ISIS members allegedly killed 4 Syrian soldiers and destroyed an battle tank with an ATGM during the attack. ISIS fighters also managed to capture an army battle tank, a Metis-M Launcher and one Metis-M missile, as well as other weapons and ammunition.
Moreover, ISIS claimed that it managed to destroy an SAA tank with an ATGM in Hamima area in the eastern Homs countryside and target SAA positions in the north-east of Al-Sha’ir field with a VBIED on 20 July.
According to SAA sources, the Syrian soldiers managed to destroy the VBIED and killed several suicide attackers inside it.
Russian Air Force warplanes continued bombing ISIS positions in the eastern Hama countryside. Two ISIS positions were destroyed. According to reports, the SAA is preparing to launch a new attempt to advance in eastern Hama countryside with Russian support soon.
The recent actions of the army and its allies have shown that the Syrian military general command understands the limitations that government forces face during the so-called race to Deir Ezzor.
ISIS terrorist still have strong defenses, a notable manpower and high number of military equipment deployed in the area north of the Homs-Deir Ezzor highway. Government forces have still not been able to seize or besiege the ISIS strongholds of Sukhna northeast of Palmyra and Uqayribat east of Salamiyah. In case of a powerful ISIS resistance in these areas, the widely expected government forces push to Dier Ezzor will be delayed.
This is why the Syrian forces decided to counter a possible situation when the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces advance in the direction of Deir Ezzor from Raqqah.
Now, government forces will likely focus on clearing the area of Uqayribat from ISIS shortening the frontline in central Syria. If the army secures the road linking Salamiyah and Palmyra through Uqayribat and the area further to the east, it will be able to launch a large-scale advance on Sukhna without a threat of being flanked by ISIS units.
Another option is to capture Sukhna and to make an attempt to encircle ISIS units east of Salamiyah through seuring the Resafa-Sukhna-Palmyra road. However, this looks unlikely because this will need addinional manpower resources that the army lacks in the area.