SDF near Shadadi, south of Hasaka in Deir ez-Zor province last summer. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Operations against ISIS in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province have resumed with a 100 percent uptick in the number of airstrikes over the past week and the return of SDF fighters to the battle field, ending a pause in operations against the extremist group, according to the coalition spokesperson.
“We are encouraged by the return of some Syrian Democratic Forces partners to the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters on Tuesday, saying it was a return of combat power to the area where the coalition and their Kurdish-led SDF partners are combatting ISIS in its last strongholds east of the Euphrates River.
The SDF moved
hundreds of its fighters from the frontlines against ISIS in the east across the country to Afrin in March to help defend the Kurdish canton from a Turkish military operation, leading to an “operational pause” in Deir ez-Zor.
Turkey announced it had taken full control of Afrin in late March, after two months of clashes with the Kurdish armed force the YPG, who make up the backbone of the SDF.
Dillon declined to confirm that the SDF returning to Deir ez-Zor were coming from Afrin, but said the coalition continues to “understand their predicament.”
ISIS still holds two pockets of territory in areas controlled by the SDF in eastern Deir ez-Zor province, east of the river – Hajin town north of al-Boukamal and al-Dashisha along the border with Iraq, Dillon detailed.
There are also militants hiding out in ones or twos in remote areas, but “These two areas is what they’ve got and that’s really it,” he said.
In these two areas, militants are attempting to reconsolidate and build car bombs.
West of the river, ISIS has reportedly had a resurgence
in areas controlled by the Syrian regime with its allied militias and Russian backing.
Dillon was adamant that a similar strengthening of the extremists has not occurred on the opposite bank: “There has been absolutely zero land that has been reclaimed by ISIS on east side of Euphrates River.”
The coalition and SDF continue to constrain and strike ISIS in these areas. With the return of the SDF and using intelligence gathered during the operational pause in February, the coalition is now increasing pressure on the ISIS on the ground and has doubled their airstrikes.