Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

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Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

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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:

Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

Click to see the full-size image

Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

Click to see the full-size image

Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

Click to see the full-size image

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.

Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

Click to see the full-size image

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.

Syrian Army Reaches Euphrates, Cuts Off Al-Bukamal-Aleppo Highway. What Now?

Click to see the full-size map

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  • Kell
  • Kell

    My guess is move to Ma’adan and onward to Deir Ezzor, only one flank to protect and securing the Euphrates towns from which Isis launches its raids as you go, might be longer but optimal strategically.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4577f36a74e7e422ccf871cd0795ba7b7c599484fd96d538b46e65196724f06e.png

    • Kell
      • Maxxi Comm

        I agree. That would serve for both strategies. Cut USA/YPG from Deir Ezor, and create another front to end the Deir Ezoor encirclement.

        • Kell

          I know troop numbers are tight but surely Deir Ezzor is better off liberated from the North than not at all, it would be a long front with strong Isis bulge in the desert still but thats going to be the case until they can clear the Hama salient which doesnt look like is going to happen anytime soon.

          • Hrky75

            Sensible strategy is to have ISIL shrinking manpower stretched out on several axis of advance. They will pull off an odd raid on a supply convoy or an isolated check point, but they don’t have resources any longer and likely routs of attack and roads north of Suknah are under SAA control…

          • Kell

            Also freeing Deir Ezzor frees up 10 000 republican guards to go chasing Isis down the Euphrates valley or over the river to secure those oilfields, untill this is done leave isis walled up in the desert and deal with them later once connections to iraq/Iran are made solid.

          • Hrky75

            SAA in Der Ezzor are long overdue for some binge drinking R&R in Latakia IMHO 😀

          • SOF

            I second this.

          • Kell

            Indeed I third it – motion carried :D

          • FlorianGeyer

            I concur with you. The desert will prove to be an ideal killing field of ISIS and Russia could test her newest weaponry without risking killing civilians.
            To some extent the ISIS gangs clinging on near Homs and Sukana are better where they are for the moment . If they are pushed toward Deir Ezzor City it would only increase the attacks on the SAA there.

          • Kell

            Yes overall this is a pretty brilliant plan,. by stringing Isis out all through the desert and forcing them to concentrate and fortify in the Hama salient, at Sukhna and T2 they have left their rear and their main base ie the Euphrates valley lightly defended with the exception of the immediate surrounds of Deir Ezzor, the first stages of advance should be pretty quick with the Kurds on the other side of the river and Raqqa locals to drop off and defend ground taken as they go below At-Tibni where isis are on both sides of the river better care has to be taken and advance slowed.
            Isis will then face the dilemma of pulling troops back from Sukhna or T2 in order to reinforce the valley in which case the SAA will simply move forward and take the positions or leave them defended and risk losing their entire rear area and main operating base.
            Glad to see more brilliant tactical level manover and stratagy from the SAA and it should be interesting to see what isis does now – id have every drone/aircraft available scanning the areas from Hama to Deir Ezzor and hitting anything Isis attempts to move as we can expect large movements soon if they choose to sacrifice their pawns (T2 and Sukhna) in an attempt to save the Euphrates valley.

          • FlorianGeyer

            A worthy appraisal Kell.
            Any re-location of ISIS will I am sure give an opportunity to kill more of them as they do so.
            The US/Israel will of course have a nefarious plan to thwart the relief of Deir Ezzor and this reality might entail US ground troops being deployed. I hope this will not happen BUT if it does the mask is truly off and WW3 beckons.

            In the plus side, the US Coalition seem to have problems with lateral thought, so fingers crossed .

          • SOF

            The worry is the SAA would want to engage the final battle with Daesh in street-to-street fighting in Deir-Ezzor in a repeat of the attrition of Mosul that will cause many casualties.

          • Admiral_Moorer_believed

            Once ISIL is in the desert, the Russian and Syrian air forces will carve them up. I read that Russia is moving planes closer to the front lines. . .

          • Kell

            Yes is they take the Euphrates valley Isis loses their access to water and supplies from their main operating bases, in the desert they should be easier to monitor and hit if they move, with loss of access to food water and fuel it is questionable how long they can maintain large forces in the desert.

      • PZIVJ

        Yes all these maps show different things. But the Tigers have taken Sabkhawi noted on first map for sure. Also note that from here the SAA has the option of cutting the northern ISUS route to Mount Bishri. So taking the mount and it’s route to Deir Ezzor is now possible, and SAA will hold the high ground. This is my guess.

  • David Lacey

    Move to close the sukhnah pocket and shorten the frontline.

    Then push south down Euphrates and lift siege on Der ez Zor from the north.

    Mop up to the Iraqi border and secure it.

    Then finish the at-tanf pocket and secure Jordanian border.

  • Jesus

    BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:35 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) Tiger Forces are within 40 kilometers of the strategic city of Deir Ezzor according to a high-ranking commander within the elite formation.

    Over the last several days, the true nature of SAA advances on the ground in southern Raqqa Governorate has been shrouded in secrecy for a number of political and military reasons.

    Russian, SAA and allies are having ISIS for lunch and dinner.

    • Kell

      Excellent

  • Hrky75

    We don’t have to keep guessing any more which road to Der Ezzor The Tiger will be taking. Straight down the Euphrates and don’t bother taking prisoners – let Allah sort them out.

  • Julius Meinel

    It is obvious- for a while now- that the Syrian secular government lacks the monetary resources to pay and motivate people to fight for it. Other than the core units that are largely motivated by clan allegiances and to a certain extend by ideology, the majority of the soldiers in this conflict have shown shifting allegiances, fighting for whatever force pays them more, and whatever force happens to prevail on the battle field. Neither Syrian, nor Iran or Russia for that matter has the deep pockets that Israel, Saudi Arabia or Qatar have to pay people on the ground with out a strong doctrinal preference to fight for their cause. Hence, the perennial lack of foot soldiers shortage; I am afraid if it had not been for Russia’s mercilessness air bombardment campaign, the SAA would have lost even more soldiers than it already did.
    SAA can not deploy more than a battalion size(1,000 men) on any one front line ( the pictures and video are pretty indicative in this sens); hence, shortening the front line becomes partitive. I do not remember them being active at division strength ( 10,000 men) in this conflict, other than perhaps for the defense of Damascus proper.

    • Kell

      The only people motivated by pay to fight are mercinaries and that is indeed what many of the terrorists in Syria are.
      As far as troop concentrations there are 10 000 in Deir Ezzor and 50 000 around Damascus

      • Why would you have 10.000 troops concentrated in such small pocket…thats over reacting. More like 2000-4000 or less. There are also soldiers circulating in and out of the city via airport.You do not need such massive amount of people defending city. Defenders are in better position then attackers. And if we look at Deir Ezzor front it is stationary. Isis had very little success capturing ground around it. More losses( man power) then successions. And they basically do not have a chance capturing it. Those soldiers inside the city are just fine. Transport system is working as we can see for four years now.

        • Kell

          Thats whats reported to be there, it is a highly strategic location so no surprise really, more surprising would perhaps be the forces deployed to Hassekah that are basically doing not much.

          • Greywolf

            If you had 10.000 troops defending the Der ezzor right now they could literally start an offensive in this moment. Isis are done and done. They don’t stand a chance. They are defending small points of interest and can be flank at any moment on all other fronts. Look what happened few days ag with tiger offensive. How can they keep a siege of the city if they are falling back on all other fronts. SAA does not have alot of troops in deir ezzor at this moment max 2000 or less

          • Kell

            Are you there??
            Didnt think so so you really have no idea – most reports ive seen since the second half of the 104th Republican Guard was brought in after the loss of Thardar mountain and the splitting of the city is from 6 – 10 000 with 15000 Isis besiegers but real numbers who knows – im not there and neither are you.

        • Ronald

          You forget the USAF , took out the SAA guarding the Dier Ezzor airport in the C/H last September . The airport has been out of service since , drop off only .
          Those troops have chewed up many times more ISIS than their numbers .
          A large number of loyal Druze among them .

      • Julius Meinel

        There is not way on earth that there are more than two battalions max in Dar el Ezzor. Do you have any idea of the logistics involved in supplying a combat division (10,000) with food, ammunition and medicine? There is not way SAA would have the lift off capabilities to supply an entire encircled division for 3-4 years. 10,000 are maybe defending Damascus at best and the whole Syrian army has at best 50-60 thousands soldiers fighting at this point.

        • Kell

          Im not there and neither are you so we cant go around counting them, we can only go by reports, its possible certainly they are overstating numbers to dissuaed further attacks.
          Despiter difficulties they are resupplying both the forces there and the 100 000 civilians in the city as well as Hassekah which is nearly as difficult to resupply.

    • Hrky75

      I’m afraid you are missing the whole point of an asymetric war in general and Syrian conflict in particular. Firstly, it’s a marathon, not a sprint – patience, rich allies and reasonably content civil population will decide a winner. In addition, Assad understands that you can’t fight this war with raw recruits and old reservists. That’s why the Russians set up training centers for volunteers only. As for strength and setup of individual units, SAA was preparing to fight IDF for 60 years, with massive mech divisions and 1000s arty pcs.- all on a short frontline around Golan. It’s quite a job to rehaull an army completely while fighting insurgency and a proxy aggression, all the while NOT declaring a state of war and general mobilization. You should give some credit when credit is due…

      • Kell

        Very well said.

      • FlorianGeyer

        Amen to that .

      • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

        The tactics of smaller combat units is an old tradition among countries with smaller armies with the means to mechanize its infantry. They have developed and refined the role of smaller units in combat allowing for better combat effectiveness. This has been the way for greater combat effective units to act as self sustained fighting forces capable of providing multi role support within a brigade’s area of operations.

        • Hrky75

          I see your point. Although it took 3 years of war, terrible attrition and some persuasion by Russian advisors for old school SAA generals to change their views – or be changed themselves. As for organization, there was an interesting article on National interest about Russian concept of combined arms battalion-in essence a small regiment: 3 moto inf comp., 1 tank comp., AA, AT, 1-2 Arty companies and some support platoons. NATO analysts are impressed by it’s flexibility, crazy amount of FP (12 tanks, 8 SpG 122mm, 4 Grad MRLS, 120mm mortars)-all in a battalion. They estimated the unit can effectively cover a front line up to 40km wide. 3-4 of these units with some recon, engineers, organic heavy arty and you have a sense of what a brigade of Tigers consists of…

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            This type of unit formation is standard in Commonwealth forces of creating a self sustaining fighting brigade , they all follow this formation. The French also employ mechanized infantry units as fighting brigades, the Marines also developed this as they train with the smaller army formations of other countries. The Airborne regiments were trained as small sustained fighting forces in WW2 but don’t enjoy the same capability as mechanized infantry brigades do today.

          • Hrky75

            But they never managed to implement it on battalion level. Most NATO armies have some version of Brigade Combat Team organization – larger and less flexible and with less FP – according to NATO analysts anyway…

          • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

            The Canadian Army fights in this type of brigade when they are doing UN or NATO duties, it has been the most effective formation against larger forces.Worked successfully in Former Yugoslavia and again in Afghanistan , The US had moved 50,000 troops into an area controlled by the Canadians with 2000-3000 troops and lost control of it and asked for them to take it back.These brigade units also include 2 squadrons of CAS giving them flexibility in operations.

          • Kell

            Yeah we call them combined arms teams, ideal mix of flexability and firepower.

          • Kell

            Yes I agree sounds very much how Australians use tanks ie close infantry support and rarely used on their own for anything.
            We learned to use Tanks in this way in the Jungle fighting in New Gunea/Pacific islands in WWII and in Vietnam where it was said to be to muddy and soft to use our Centurian tanks but did so with amazing effect particularly when clearing bunker systems, the figures showed that the presence of tanks reduced infantry casualties Ten fold ie you took 10 you would take 1 with a tank present.

          • Kell
    • Jesus

      During the Yom Kippur war in 1973, Syria had 7-8 armored divisions along with infantry divisions and other support units. Since then, the army has atrophied in structure and strength, given the relative peaceful conditions in the area. Remodernizing its equipment was not a priority, and Russia was trying to play along within the G8 guidelines until the events in Libya. The proxy insurgency caught the Syrian army unprepared for the scope and effort channeled by the axis of evil to remove Assad. Bad decisions and lack of a modern weaponry and training allowed the insurgents to make significant gains until Russia intervened.

  • Alex Black

    Wow, what an impressive operation.

  • goingbrokes

    Many may not realise it but Deir Ezzor is saved! I know it is not liberated yet, but it is saved! Only a very substantial army of great resources and ability could keep fighting off the advancing SAA and simultaneously carry on breaking the siege of the city. The siege is actually history as of now, even though the maps can’t show it and it is still surrounded by the enemy. The defenders should keep their guard up, but ISUS cannot break the siege any longer. Thanks to Suheil Al-Hassan’s Tiger Forces blitzkrieg ISUS last hope just died. Hallelujah.
    Sukhnah seems to be a tough nut. Quite likely it was prepared as a meat grinder precisely because when it falls nothing can stop SAA reaching D-E city. The pressure on Sukhnah has drawn much fighting power away from the siege of D-E, and that too has been crucial.
    East Hama also seems to be one of those “ISUS’s last stand” places with nutters determined to “win or die”. Well, they won’t win! We can only hope they won’t be able to cause a huge loss of life before they’re done. Last but not least this is of course a defeat for the Israeli Secret Intelligence Services. Marvellous!

    • goingbrokes
    • I agree, Daesh no longer can ever seize Deir ez Zor ever again and their hopes of taking the city is long over. Even if they threw all of their manpower and equipment in a massive surge right now they still wouldn’t have enough. Daesh only has a few thousand, demorailzed fighters and a very limited amount of heavy equipment. Even at their peak in 2015 when they controlled an area the size of Great Britain and over 8 million people with 200,000+ fighters they still could not take the city!

  • Maj Dan

    Don’t be surprised if we later find out that the US “signed off” on this strategy / good deal!

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      They had to accept it as part of the deal in the peace process and why they are stepping up their media campaign against Syria and using it’s collection of idiots to promote the idea of the US being a permanent fixture in Syria and Iraq.

  • Ono&Dsz

    Finaly !!!!!

    • Terra Cotta Woolpuller

      Yes!!! Good Job SAA !!! They followed a good strategy of a feint and drive like I assumed they would and marched for the Euphrates, using the N4 highway to secure a flank towards the Deir Ez zoir . Al Sukhana has been heavily fortified making it a tough nut to crack and would have expected the US to direct its Proxy ISIS to the defense of that region. The other flanking maneuver to create another pocket in the region near Palmyra is a good strategy to flank and push towards the hills overlooking Al-Sukhana bypassing and encircling it.

  • Graeme Rymill

    If the Tiger Forces etc. can capture As-Sukhnah from the north then they would create a huge pocket that would isolate ISIS. The ISIS in the pocket would be largely cut off from food, ammunition and reinforcements that lie in the Euphrates River valley. Alternatively the Tiger Forces could cut the road between As-Sukhnah and Deir Ezzor.This would still create a huge pocket.

    As to Deir Ezzor the SDF still have the option of advancing to it down the northern side of the Euphrates or heading due south to Deir Ezzor from SDF held positions. Advancing to just the north bank avoids the SAA held southern section of Deir Ezzor. I suspect the SDF wants the Euphrates as its southern border. So the race to Deir Ezzor isn’t necessarily over if the SAA wants to secure both banks.

  • gustavo

    This is what one would expected that Syria army did since one month ago. Now, we hope they continue along Euphrates river until they reach Deir Ezzor. Good look and hope more air support from Russia.

  • gustavo

    I am insisting that air Russia support is not enough. Russia aerspace force would be capable of destroying all the Homs-Deir Ezzor highway enemy equipment since they can see and ear everything on ground. Syria avance to Deir Ezzor needs 20 helipcoters and 20 bombarder and 15 cazas…. where are they ? Russia sends only a couple of helicopters and a couple of bombarders. That is the impression I have, am I wrong ?

    • PZIVJ

      But why do think air support is not supporting this move?
      For sure many helo bases are not close enough to this front.
      This is from SF article 2 days ago:
      “ISIS announced that the Syrian warplanes and helicopters carried out 23 air strikes on the villages of Ghanem al-Ali and Zour Shamr on the West Bank of the Euphrates south-east of Dalha village, confirming SAA is at least close to the west bank of Euphrates River.”

  • John Brown

    The SAA is doing the right thing, attacking ISIS everywhere and outflanking the SDF and the USSA. ISIS / Israel can’t mount any major offensives anymore against the SAA and Deir Azur as they are now locked into static positions because of SAA tactics so now the SAA can pick of ISIS units and territory as it sees fit to do. Deir Azur is saved. The SAA will now close out pockets of ISIS and FSA terrorists in the East and South of Syria and surround heavily defended cities still controlled by ISIS like Sukhna. A few weeks of this and the SAA will shorten up its lines and free up many unit to mount a major offensive
    on Deir Azur first and then Al-Bukamal to the Iraqi border afterward. Sukhna can wait and just be surrounded and bombed by air power for now.
    Then Turkey will shortly attack the Kurds in the North and East of Syria big time with the bulk of its army assisted by Russian, Chinese, Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Qatari support.