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2014 Eastern Syria offensive

2014 Eastern Syria offensive
Part of the Syrian Civil War
2014 Eastern Syria offensive.svg
Territorial control before and after the offensive.
(Dotted lines denote frontlines prior to the offensive)

     Syrian Army control      Opposition control (including al-Qaeda in the Levant)      Kurdish control      Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

     Ongoing confrontation or unclear situation
Date23 July – 28 August 2014
(1 month and 5 days)
LocationEastern Syria
Result ISIL victory in Raqqa province; Indecisive result in Al-Hasakah province; Syrian Army victory in Aleppo province
Territorial
changes
  • ISIL captures Division 17,[4] Brigade 93,[5] Artillery Regiment 121[6] and Al-Tabqa airbase[7]
  • The Syrian Army recaptures five villages to the south of Al-Hasakah city[8] and repels attack on Kwayres air base[9]
  • Shared control of Al-Hasakah city between the Syrian government and Kurdish forces is established[10]
  • The Syrian Army repels three ISIL attacks on Al-Tabqa airbase, before retreating from the base[11]
Belligerents
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syrian Armed Forces


 Rojava (SDF)

Commanders and leaders

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
(Caliph of ISIL)
Abu Omar al-Shishani [12][13]
(ISIL general military commander)
Amer al-Rafdan[7]
(ISIL governor of Deir ez-Zor)
Ali Moussa al-Shawakh[14]
(Army of Raqqa commander)
Abu Osama al-Tunisi[14]
(Army of Aleppo commander)

Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti[14][15]
(Knights Battalion commander)

Brig. General Suleiman Dhaher
(commander of Division 17)[16]
Brig. General Hasham al-Sha'arani 
(Division 17)[17]
General Mozid Salama
(commander of Artillery Regiment 121)
[18]
People's Protection Units Flag.svg Sipan Hemo
(YPG commander-in-chief)

Gewargis Hanna
(MFS commander)
Units involved

Military of ISIL

  • Army of Raqqa
  • Army of Aleppo
  • Army of Hasakah
    • Knights Battalion[15]

17th Division[18]

  • 93rd Armored Brigade [5]
  • 121st Artillery Regiment[18]
  • 137th Mechanized Brigade[19]
  • 123th Mechanized Brigade
12th Attack Squadron (MiG-21MF/UM)[20]
24th Helicopter Brigade (Mi-8)[20]
Strength

1,400–1,440+ fighters

  • 600[21]–640[18] fighters (Division 17 assault)
  • 800 fighters (Al-Hasakah province)[21]

1,400 (Al-Tabqa air base)[22]

Casualties and losses
456–586+ killed[5][22][25][26][27][28][29][30] Syrian government:
544+ killed [5][22][22][26][30][31]
32 missing[31][32]
10+ captured[22][33][34]
1 MiG-21MF/UM[23]
YPG:
5+ killed[35]

The 2014 Eastern Syria offensive was an offensive launched by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or IS) against government-held military installations in eastern Syria during the Syrian Civil War, after expelling the Syrian rebels from the region. The offensive is considered to be the largest military attack against the Syrian government launched by ISIL since its establishment. It is also considered to be a reaction to Syrian Army military operations against ISIL positions in eastern Syria.[18]

The offensive

Raqqa, Al-Hasakah, and Aleppo assaults

Late in the evening on 23 July, a 640-men strong Islamic State assault force (of which 40 infiltrators) launched an attack on the Division 17 base, north of Raqqa, from three sides. The attack began with two suicide attacks. Both were thwarted by the defenders before they could reach their targets.[18] However, the explosions did leave 19 soldiers dead.[4] The next day, just hours after the attack on Division 17 started, the ISIS launched an attack on the Regiment 121 base (known as the Melbiya Regiment), south of Al-Hasakah, and the Panorama checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city. According to some reports, militants breached the base and killed General Mozid Salama along with 20 of his men. A Syrian Army official denied this claim. At the same time, four infiltrators disguised as NDF members attacked the Ba'ath party building in Al-Hasakah, killing a high-ranking Ba'ath political leader.[18] The four ISIS infiltrators eventually blew themselves up, killing a total of 12 persons.[26]

During the night of 25 July, a suicide car-bomb was detonated at the Panorama checkpoint, killing five soldiers. Meanwhile, clashes at the southern perimeter of Al-Hasakah city killed three YPG fighters,[1][36] while 11 Syrian soldiers (including an officer) died while defending the Artillery Regiment 121 base. 17 ISIS fighters were also killed near the base.[26]

On 26 July, ISIS took control of Division 17 after government forces retreated, following two days of fighting.[25] Hundreds of troops retreated from the base towards Brigade 93 and nearby villages.[4] Three groups were pulled out, while one group stayed behind to cover the retreat. One of the retreating groups got ambushed by the ISIS, but two other groups,[37] numbering hundreds of soldiers, reached Brigade 93 that day. 300 other soldiers were still held up in the village of Al Rahyat.[38] 50 soldiers from the ambushed group were captured and summarily executed.[4] Overall, 85 soldiers were killed in the battle for Division 17. The fate of 200 others remained unknown, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR). Some of the executed Syrian soldiers were paraded in Raqqa,[4] where the heads of soldiers were put on poles.[39] 28 ISIS fighters were also killed during the takeover of Division 17.[25]

On the same day, ISIS forces penetrated the besieged Kwayres air base, east of Aleppo, and captured parts of the airport campus.[40]

In the evening, it was reported that ISIS managed to capture large parts of Artillery Regiment 121 base,[41] and by the next day, according to SOHR, had fully taken control of the base.[6] However, according to Kurdish sources, government troops recaptured the base after ISIS forces retreated under heavy artillery fire.[10] It was also reported that YPG units seized weaponry from the SAA in Hasakah city,[35] while YPG and pro-government fighters set up joint-patrols in the southern parts of Al-Hasakah to prevent ISIS taking control of the city.[2] According to the state news agency SANA, the military recaptured the Penitentiary center for teenagers, the Martyrs Cemetery and the al-Ahrash area on the southern outskirts of Hasakah.[42]

Meanwhile, dozens of government soldiers, fleeing from the captured Division 17, reached the Al-Thawrah air base, also known as Al-Tabqa.[43] Also during this time, ISIS forces retreated from the Kwayres air base due to heavy shelling.[9]

Syrian Army counterattack

On 31 July, ISIL fighters retreated from the Al Mashtal area towards Mafraq Sediq, 7 kilometers west of Al Hasakah city, because of potential shelling by government forces. Meanwhile, ISIS itself shelled Al Hasakah with mortars, leaving three people dead.[44]

On 1 August, the military counter-attacked and ISIS forces retreated from areas south-east of Al Hasakah city. Government troops captured the villages of Al Homor, Al Slaleyyi, Al Fallaha, Al Ma’ruf and Al Maqbara, eventually reaching the old junction of Al Shaddadi during the advance.[8]

Further ISIL advances

After overnight clashes that started with a triple suicide bombing, on 7 August, ISIS forces captured large parts of the Brigade 93 base.[45] The next day, ISIS was in full control of the base and started preparing to attack Al-Tabqa air base, the last government stronghold in Raqqa province.[5] In the past, different rebel groups besieged the Al-Tabqa air base at different time periods. On 25 November 2013, they had shot down a government helicopter outside the base, killing all of its crew members.[46]

By this time, the number of confirmed soldiers killed at Division 17 was updated to 105, while another 140 soldiers remained missing.[31] 108 of the missing soldiers arrived at the air base on 14 August.[32]

On 8 August, ISIS repelled a Kurdish and pro-government forces attempt to recapture the Geweran neighbourhood of Hasakah city through the Beiruti bridge.[47]

Battle of Al-Tabqa airbase

Around 10 August 2014, ISIS started to continuously attack Al-Tabqa airbase.[48]

After two weeks of fighting, and several repelled ISIS assaults,[49] on 24 August, ISIS fighters breached Al-Tabqa and took control over large parts of the air base.[50] This attack occurred when the Army was already retreating from the base to the Ithriya area, leaving a small garrison behind. The base was eventually captured that day.[7][50]

In the final assault, Syrian 170 soldiers were killed, while since the start of the battle, 346 ISIS fighters and Syrian 195 soldiers had been killed.[28] The number of dead soldiers was later updated to 200.[22] Another 150 soldiers were reportedly captured,[51][52] while 700 soldiers managed to retreat.[22]

Mohasan and Baath Dam

On 28 August, Syrian fighter jets launched a precise attack on an IS HQ in the city of Mohasan, during a meeting between military leaders and sharia judges. The attack resulted in the death of most leaders inside (numbering six), while others were wounded.[22][53] Another airstrike occurred the same day against an IS camp near Baath Dam, killing and wounding dozens of insurgents.[54] According to SOHR, ISIS executed 160 Syrian soldiers between 27 and 28 August.[22] At the beginning of October, 29 soldiers missing from the Brigade 93 base managed to reach the Army headquarters at Al-Hasakah city.[55]

Aftermath

An ISIL training camp in eastern Syria was bombed by the Air Force on 14 September, resulting in 17 ISIL casualties.[56] The next day, Special forces and Syrian Army engineers blew up the Political Bridge in Deir ez-Zor, killing all the militants who were on it. ISIL thus lost the only available land route to move into parts of the city it controls. Further supplies had to be delivered by boats.[57]

See also

References

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