The government forces of Syria supported by Russian warplanes have defeated a large group of Islamic State fighters in the Raqqa governorate, the Russian defense ministry reported.
The offensive operation resulted in the defeat of the “most capable and best armed group of ISIL in the Euphrates River valley” the ministry said in a statement, calling Islamic State (IS) by its former name. “Amid the operation 800 terrorists, 13 tanks, 29 pickup trucks with high-caliber machine guns mounted on them, and mortars and artillery pieces totalling nine have been destroyed.”
The hostilities took place near the town of Ghanem Ali, located in the eastern part of the Raqqa governorate south of the Euphrates. IS launched an offensive there a few days ago, reportedly seizing the town and fighting against the government forces for the hills overlooking the town.
According to the Russian ministry, the government forces involved in the operation are now advancing east along the river towards the Deir ez-Zor governorate. Its capital, the city of Deir ez-Zor, is controlled by the government but has been surrounded by rural IS-controlled areas for years. The Syrian army has been trying to break through the blockade for quite some time.
Earlier on Friday the US-backed predominantly Kurdish militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), pledged to launch their own offensive on IS fighters in Deir ez-Zor “within several weeks”. It would be conducted in parallel to the siege of Raqqa, the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold, where SDF plays a major role with air and artillery support from American forces. SDF personnel are located to the north and east of the Euphrates, the same side of the river as the city of Raqqa.