Middle EastWar

Syrian army and allies capture Deir Ezzor city as Iraqis seize key border crossing

Deir Ezzor's capture leaves Al Bukamal as the last major urban area in Syria held by ISIS

The Syrian Arab Army and its allies captured Deir Ezzor city from Islamic State on Friday, November 3, a statement from the ministry of defense said.

“After a series of meticulous operations, units of our armed forces, in cooperation with allied forces, completed their tasks in restoring security and stability to the entire city of Deir al-Zour,” the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said.

Large numbers of ISIS fighters, including leaders and foreigners were “eliminated,” and engineering units are now combing the city to remove improvised explosive devices, mines and other booby traps left behind.

The statement highlighted the strategic importance of the city as a node linking northern and eastern Syria with the more populous east, as well as its economic importance as an agricultural area and a major reservoir of oil and gas.

The army said it will continue operations against ISIS and “other terrorist groups” until security and stability are restored across Syria.

Race to Al Bukamal?

The capture of Deir Ezzor will likely lead to a major offensive launched by the regime and its allies towards Al Bukamal. The border town sits in the middle Euphrates river valley and is the last ISIS urban stronghold in Syria. Both the U.S.-led Coalition and the Syrian government have said that the town is an objective in their ongoing campaigns.

The town lies on the west bank of the Euphrates where the Syrian government and its allies including Russia have been fighting ISIS. The river acts as a demarkation line – the Coalition-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are battling ISIS on the eastern side, and have themselves made rapid advances after the capture of Raqqa from ISIS. The SDF have captured most of Syria’s largest oil and gas fields, with some saying the advances were so rapid because deals were made with ISIS for their handover.

Syrian government forces and allies captured the geographically and economically strategic T2 oil pumping station on October 26, and have slowly advanced toward Al Bukamal from there in the face of massive ISIS counter-attacks.

Iraqi forces push into Al Qaim

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces claimed to have captured the Husaybah border crossing in Al Qaim in western Anbar province, just across the border from Al Bukamal. The operation to capture Al Qaim and Rawa, the two remaining ISIS-held urban centers in Iraq was launched by units from the Iraqi army, the Counter-Terrorism Services and the Hashd al-Shaabi on October 25, and has mainly focused on the Qaim area.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said forces captured the border crossing hours after entering al-Qaim, Reuters reported.

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