Stepping up the ante in the battle against ISIS, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has now advanced a total of 60 kilometers on the western Raqqa front, thus striking deep inside ISIS heartland.
The Syrian army forces backed by their allied forces have established control over the strategic crossroads at Sfaiyeh leading to the northern city of ISIS-held Raqqah.
The advance was spearheaded by the Desert Hawks Brigade and Syrian Marines, who were assisted by the SAA’s 555th Regiment of the 4th Mechanized Division.
Alongside the SAA’s tanks and artillery, airstrikes have played an instrumental role in driving ISIS back during the Raqqa offensive as the scarcely populated desert terrain is not suitable for ambushes but leaves ISIS forces exposed.
The Friday recapture was the first marked advance by the army into Syria’s north-central Raqqah Province.
Last Saturday, they entered the province for the first time since 2014, when ISIS unleashed it’s campaign of terror on the Arab country.
The capture of the junction, which also leads to Tabqa, another Daesh-held city in Raqqah, was the climax of a week-long army push with the backing of Russian fighter jets.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8xnUf5yV5E] These recent gains leave government troops just 20 kilometers south of Tabqa Airbase and 60 kilometers from the provincial capital of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, the SAA must now consider focusing on reinforcing its flanks in the region before advancing further – so as to safeguard the massive government salient which now strikes deep into the Islamic State heartland of Raqqa province.
Today’s government advance also puts the SAA within striking distance of ISIS-held oil fields in Raqqa province, thus adding further pressure to the Islamic State, which has seen its territories across both Syria and Iraq shrink significantly in the past few months.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giPYkgm_Hvg] The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said Syrian forces were now 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Tabqa, which itself lies some 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Raqqah City.
The Syrian army said large numbers of the terrorists were killed during the Friday conquest. The monitor put the death toll among the Daesh militants at 80.
Separately, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, are moving towards Manbij, another city in Raqqah Province near the Turkish border.
On Thursday, the SDF forces managed to cut off the main ISIS supply route to Turkey after encircling Manbij.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cKj8qWuRkE]The Observatory, however, said the advance was at a slow pace, which is probably a lie as the source is a known disinfo operation.
Raqqah, on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 km east of Aleppo, was overrun by Takfiri terrorists in March 2013, and in 2014 was proclaimed the center for most of the terrorists’ administrative and control tasks.
The potential recaptures of Raqqah in Syria and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are seen as the ultimate blows to Daesh.
The Iraqi army is also massing tanks and troops south of Mosul, in preparation for an offensive planned later this year to retake the largest city under the control of the militants, Press TV reported.