SDF prepare on the first day of operation Jazira Storm in Deir ez-Zor. Photo: YPG video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have advanced rapidly reaching Deir ez-Zor’s industrial zone on Sunday just one day after announcing the commencement of an offensive to defeat ISIS in the northern Deir ez-Zor countryside.
The SDF stated they reached the first streets of the industrial zone where the militants had built up fortifications including trenches and landmines. Because of their rapid advance, the SDF said they had the element of surprise but are now engaged in violent street clashes with ISIS.
The offensive against ISIS in the eastern Syrian province that borders Iraq is being led by the Deir ez-Zor Military Council under the SDF flag and with Coalition backing. The Coalition stated on Saturday that the aim of the offensive is to clear ISIS from the Khabur River valley that cuts south through the province.
Coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon tweeted Sunday afternoon the SDF had taken more than 250 square kilometres of territory since launching the operation.
The operation is proceeding simultaneous to one on the city of Deir ez-Zor itself led by the Syrian Army with Russian backing. On Saturday, state media SANA reported Syrian troops had reached the military airport east of the city, ending a three-year ISIS siege on their forces there.
On Sunday, Syrian regime forces continued to gain ground, taking full control of the Deir ez-Zor-Damascus highway, according to Hezbollah-run media. According to SANA, many ISIS militants had fled eastward towards al-Mayadin.
Syrian advances on Deir ez-Zor means aid agencies have been able to send a convoy of humanitarian relief to the city. On Friday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent brought 42 trucks of food, hygiene, and medical aid to 80,000 civilians “who have been under siege [for] more than three years.”
In Raqqa, where the SDF are in control of about 65 percent of the city, fierce clashes continue amid concerns for the civilian population. The SDF released a statement from the Raqqa Civil Council on Sunday calling on civilians to “stay in their homes and not to leave from sunrise to sunset in order to avoid the consequences of fighting against ISIS until the opportunity comes to leave.”
At the end of August, the conflict monitor Airwars reported “a minimum of 860 civilians, including 150 children, are credibly reported to have been killed in Raqqa” by Coalition and artillery airstrikes since the operation began on June 6.
The UN estimates 20,000 civilians remain in the city.