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2017 Euphrates Crossing offensive

2017 Euphrates Crossing offensive
Part of the Eastern Syria campaign (September–December 2017), the Syrian Civil War and the Russian military intervention in Syria
Date18 September – 21 October 2017
(1 month and 3 days)
Location
Status

Syrian Army victory

  • The Syrian Army captured ten villages after crossing the Euphrates River[1][2]
  • The Syrian Army encircles the ISIL-held part of Deir ez-Zor city
Belligerents

Syrian Arab Republic

Russia
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Syria Maj. Gen. Suheil al-Hassan
(Operations chief commander)
Syria Maj. Gen. Issam Zahreddine [3]
(104th Airborne Brigade of Republican Guard)
Russia Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov [4][5]
(Syrian 5th Corps commander)[6]
Unknown
Units involved

Syrian Armed Forces

Russian forces

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Military of ISIL

  • Wilayat Deir ez-Zor
Casualties and losses
Syria 72 killed (SOHR claim)[10]
Russia 7 killed (SOHR claim)[10] (some possibly PMCs)[11]
300+ killed (SAA claim; 29 Sep. – 13 Oct.)[12]

The 2017 Euphrates Crossing offensive was a military offensive launched by the Syrian Arab Army against members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, following the breaking of the three-year siege of the city of Deir ez-Zor. The Euphrates Crossing offensive, conducted by government troops, was done with the aim of denying US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the US itself leverage over the Syrian government.[13]

The offensive was concurrent with the two SDF offensives, the Battle of Raqqa and the northern Deir ez-Zor offensive, as well the Hawija Offensive in Iraq.

Background

2011–14

Protests against the Syrian government and violence in the Syrian city Deir ez-Zor took place since March 2011, but large-scale fighting began in late November 2011, in order for the rebels to take control of the eastern part of Syria. By the end of 2013, rebels took over most of the province, leaving only a small pocket of government control in and around the city of Deir ez-Zor.

2014–17

Following the expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in late 2013 and early 2014, ISIL forces launched a major offensive against the rebels in the province and the city of Deir Ez-Zor, pushing out rebel forces and besieging government troops in Deir ez-Zory city. For more than three years, the Syrian Arab Army managed to keep control of the western half of the city, while ISIL was in control of the entire eastern side of the city. During this time ISIL launched several offensives to capture the remaining parts of the city with limited gains.

Summer 2017

On 27 August, as part of a wider campaign in central Syria against ISIL, the Syrian Arab Army, launched a major offensive against the city of Deir ez-Zor in an attempt to break the siege. On 3 September, pro-government forces broke through to the city's first lines of defense around 10 pm. Two days later, the siege was broken. Soon after, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive on ISIL positions east of the Euphrates River on 8 September, with US and Kurd officials announcing they would not allow the Syrian Arab Army to descend across the Euphrates. Meanwhile, on 10 September, the Syrian Arab Army broke the siege of the Deir ez-Zor military airport, after which they pushed to the south. Concurrently the SDF broke through to the outskirts of the city on the other side of the Euphrates and occupied the industrial zone and the main road. On 11 September, the Syrian Arab Army and the pro-government media announced the beginning of an offensive and amphibious landing over the Euphrates River, beginning with the installation of pontoon bridges and amphibians. The announcement in the pro-government media was that the military operation would be called the Assad's jump on the occasion of the birthday of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. On 15 September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced the beginning of an army offensive across the Euphrates River, and a day later[14] the Russian air force bombed the positions of the SDF northeast of Deir ez-Zor. Elsewhere, pro-government forces, with the support of Russian air strikes, launched operations against Deir ez-Zor city's northwestern district.[15] The same day, the Syrian government announced the start of an offensive on Al-Bukamal and the complete closure of the border with Iraq.[16]

The offensive

On 18 September, pro-government forces crossed the Euphrates River[17] using makeshift bridges, and launched an offensive on the east bank of the city of Deir ez-Zor, advancing within 3 miles (5 km) of positions held by the SDF.[18] The next day, the SAA said that pro-government forces continued to advance on the east bank of the Euphrates, including an assault against al-Sabah village.[19]

On 20 September, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the US-backed SDF of assisting ISIL in East Deir Ez-Zor in various ways in an attempt to prevent the Syrian army and its paramilitaries from capturing the region. Russian General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Ministry, noted that the strongest ISIL counter-attacks and artillery shelling on the Syrian Army bridge on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River came from the north where the US and Kurdish forces hold positions, not from the south where most ISIL forces were. The Russian general accused the US Coalition of other acts of sabotage against the forces of the Syrian army.[20][21] US denied complicity with ISIS.[22]

On 21 September, ISIL released video appearing to show it was deploying armed drones to prevent the SAA from expanding its positions on the east coast of Deir ez-Zor. ISIS opened fire on the Syrian army, but the army did not report any losses.[23] Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) continued its march along the east coast of the Euphrates River, capturing a new town located near the strategic Al-'Omar's oil fields after fierce clashes with ISIS members. With the support of heavy artillery from the 113th and 137th Brigades of the 17th Division, the 5th Legion of the Syrian Arab Army reported it had overcome the positions of the ISIS east of the recently captured al-Marat in order to advance to Mazloum.[9] The 4th Mechanized Division and the 5th Legion began an advance south of Mazloum towards Khasham.[24][25]

On 5 October, units of the 4th Armoured Division crossed the Euphrates.[26] On 16 October, Syrian army captured town of al-Husayniyah on the other side of Euphrates from Deir ez-Zor after full day of clashes with ISIL fighters.[27] The next day, the town of Janenah was also captured.[28]

On 18 October, Major General Issam Zahreddine, the commander of 104th Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard who lead the Syrian Army during the three-year siege of Deir ez-Zor, was killed by a land mine in Saqr Island within Euphrates river.[29][30]

Syrian Army captured southern parts of Deir ez-Zor industrial area, including paper factory and construction zone, north of village of Al-Salhiyah in the morning of 20 October.[31] The next morning, two settlements were captured by the Syrian Army.[32]

Aftermath

The Syrian Army began operations to recapture the city of Deir ez-Zor on 17 October and by 3 November, government forces completely captured the city.

References

  1. ^ "After bringing large reinforcements…one village in the east of the Euphrates River separates the regime forces from imposing the siege on ISIS inside Deir Ezzor". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  2. ^ Breaking: Syrian Army crosses Euphrates River, liberates new town in Deir Ezzor
  3. ^ [www.almasdarnews.com]
  4. ^ "Russian lieutenant-general killed in ISIS shelling near Deir ez-Zor, Syria - MoD". Russia Today.
  5. ^ "ISIS shell kills Russian commander of Syrian Euphrates crossing". Debkafile.
  6. ^ "Russia says general killed in Syria held senior post in Assad's army". 27 September 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017 – via Reuters.
  7. ^ "Breaking: Syrian Army liberates first town after crossing Euphrates River". Al-Masdar News. 19 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  8. ^ Andrew Illingworth (19 September 2017). "VIDEO: Full report by very first Syrian troops to cross the Euphrates in historic operation". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Breaking: Syrian Army expands control over eastern bank of Euphrates River". Al-Masdar News. 21 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  10. ^ a b "In its repel attacks, ISIS kills at least 79 members of the regime forces and their allied militiamen including 7 Russians in the eastern banks of the Euphrates River". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  11. ^ "ISIS kills 3 Russian soldiers in Deir Ezzor: Amaq provides photos". Al-Masdar News. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  12. ^ Syrian Army slays hundreds of ISIS militants during big battle to encircle Deir Ezzor city
  13. ^ "Why the Euphrates Crossing has Deep Implications for the U.S. in Syria". News:Deeply. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Russia: Syria government forces now on east bank of Euphrates river". Reuters. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017 – via Reuters.
  15. ^ Press, Associated (17 September 2017). "Syria: Russia denies airstrike that wounded six US-backed fighters". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 September 2017 – via www.theguardian.com.
  16. ^ Pro-Damascus alliance declares Syria offensive near Iraq border, Reuters
  17. ^ "The regime forces control Hawija Sakr and work with the Russians on rehabilitating the military base of Deir Ezzor and new groups arrives to the eastern bank of the Euphrates River". SOHR. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Pro-government Forces Advance Toward SDF in Deir Ezzor". Syria Deeply. 19 September 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Army confronts al-Nusra attack in Hama, advances on eastern bank of Euphrates River in Deir Ezzor – Syrian Arab News Agency". sana.sy. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Kurdish, Coalition forces assisting ISIS in Deir Ezzor: Russian MoD". Al-Masdar News. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  21. ^ "US special ops forces & hardware spotted at ISIS positions north of Deir ez-Zor – Russian MoD". Russia Today. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  22. ^ Sputnik. "US Claims Not to Be Complicit in Russian General's Death in Syria". sputniknews.com. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  23. ^ "VIDEO: Syrian Army bombed by ISIS drone while crossing Euphrates River". Al-Masdar News. 21 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  24. ^ "Breaking: Syrian Army continues advance along eastern bank of Euphrates". Al-Masdar News. 22 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  25. ^ "The regime forces extend their scope of control in the sixth day of crossing the Euphrates River in the eastern banks". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  26. ^ Elite Syrian Army division crosses Euphrates to join the race to Al-Umar Oil Fields, Al-Masdar News
  27. ^ "Breaking: ISIS retreats from east Euphrates region amid rapid Syrian Army gains". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 16 October 2017. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  28. ^ "Syrian Army chases ISIS militants up the east Euphrates bank, liberates key town". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  29. ^ Head of Syrian army brigade besieged in Deir al-Zor dies -media unit
  30. ^ "Breaking: Prominent Syrian general Issam Zahreddine killed in Deir Ezzor". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  31. ^ "Syrian Army scores new advance along eastern bank of Euphrates". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 20 October 2017. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  32. ^ "ISIS pocket in northeast Deir Ezzor nearly cleared as Syrian Army liberates two towns". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 21 October 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2017.