Syrian regime troops push on into Daesh stronghold Mayadeen
300-400 terrorists left in Raqqa, says US-led coalition
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.