Syr­ian regime troops push on into Daesh strong­hold Mayadeen

300-400 ter­ror­ists left in Raqqa, says US-led coali­tion

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEIRUT: Syr­ian op­po­si­tion ac­tivists say regime troops are push­ing deeper into a Daesh strong­hold in the coun­try’s east, the town of Mayadeen.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said clashes with mil­i­tants in­ten­si­fied in the morn­ing hours on Thurs­day in the town, as govern­ment forces ad­vanced into the western and north­ern neigh­bor­hoods of Mayadeen, which lies on the Euphrates River.

The ob­ser­va­tory said troops were able to cut off the road link­ing Mayadeen and the town of Bouka­mal on the border with Iraq.

“Regime forces, led on the ground by Rus­sian forces, took con­trol of at least four neigh­bor­hoods of Mayadeen,” ob­ser­va­tory chief Rami Ab­del Rahman said.

The state news agency SANA con­firmed that regime forces had re-en­tered Mayadeen.

Ab­del Rahman, whose or­ga­ni­za­tion re­lies on a net­work of sources in­side Syria, said Rus­sian forces are “over­see­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, tak­ing part in the fight­ing and car­ry­ing out airstrikes.”

The fresh ad­vance by regime forces come in spite of re­in­force­ments of around 1,000 men Daesh re­ceived from Iraq, ac­cord­ing to the ob­ser­va­tory.

The lat­est Rus­sian-backed regime push has iso­lated the ter­ror­ists defending Mayadeen, cut­ting off the main road to their strong­hold of Albu Ka­mal on the Iraqi border, and leav­ing the Euphrates River as their only es­cape.

Op­po­si­tion ac­tivist Moza­hem Al-Sal­loum said the fight­ing is fierce and that it will likely take time to rid Mayadeen of Daesh.

Mean­while, between 300 and 400 Daesh ter­ror­ists re­main in their one-time Syr­ian bas­tion of Raqqa where a Kur­dish-Arab force is fight­ing to seize full con­trol, its US-led coali­tion backer said.

“We are look­ing at ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 civil­ians who re­main in Raqqa, and a mat­ter of 3-400 re­main­ing ISIS (Daesh) fight­ers,” coali­tion spokesman Col. Ryan S. Dil­lon said in Bagh­dad.

The Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), an al­liance of Kur­dish and Arab fight­ers, have taken con­trol of around 90 per­cent of the city from Daesh since they broke into it in June.

Of­fi­cials from Raqqa Civil Coun­cil — a pro­vi­sional ad­min­is­tra­tion set up by the SDF — are try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate the safe pas­sage of civil­ians from re­main­ing Daesh-held ar­eas.

Air raids by US coali­tion war­planes have in­ten­si­fied in re­cent days as the SDF seeks to drive sur­rounded Daesh mil­i­tants from their last strongholds in Raqqa — but the toll on civil­ians has been se­vere.

Hun­dreds of civil­ians fled the city on Thurs­day, many wounded and mal­nour­ished af­ter be­ing trapped for months by fight­ing between Daesh and the SDF.

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