Syrian government forces are still working to secure the M20 highway, which links Homs with Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported on January 20.
Units of the Syrian Arab Army 5th Corps, the National Defense Forces and the Palestinian al-Quds Brigade kicked off a large-scale combing operation to secure the highway last week. The operation came in response to a series of attacks by ISIS cells on troops and civilians traveling on the highway.
On December 30, ISIS cells ambushed a bus near the town of Kabbajb on the M20. 25 people, including civilians, were killed.
The Russian Aerospace Forces support the operation. Russian warplanes have been providing government troops with close air support for almost a week now.
“Russian jets have executed nearly 40 airstrikes, in the past 24, on Aleppo-Hama-Raqqa triangle in the Syrian desert where ISIS cells are prevalent,” the SOHR said in a report.
A day earlier, a patrol of the 5th Corps was attacked on the M20. An ISIS terrorist approached the patrol on a motorcycle and threw a hand grenade. Two service members were reportedly killed and three others were injured.
The ongoing operation on the M20 is the largest in a long time. While the operation could help to secure the highway for a short term, it will not put an end to the threat of ISIS in the central region. The terrorist group’s cells are taking shelter in the Homs desert, south of the highway. They allegedly receive support from US-backed fighters in al-Tanf.
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