“ISIS” Sets the Syrian Desert on Fire a Year after Its Retreat  

An ISIS fighter during the military confrontations in Deir ez-Zor – October 2018 (Amaq)

An ISIS fighter during the military confrontations in Deir ez-Zor – October 2018 (Amaq)


 The “Islamic State” ISIS returns to the Syrian Desert once more through a sudden attack, which it started against Assad’s forces’ positions. Through the attack, it controlled “strategic” points, placing itself at the southern side of the city of al-Qaryatayn to the east of Homs, amidst questions about its goals, is it to keep advancing towards eastern Qalamun or to retreat to its former positions, as a “surprise attack” to size weapons only?

ISIS progress came after the retreat its fronts has witnessed a bout a year ago, against the background of the battle which the area’s opposition factions have initiated, through which they managed to expel it from the points located within the administrative borders of Deir ez-Zor governorate.

The Syrian desert includes a wide space, expanding from the east of As-Suwayda, the southern countryside of Damascus, rural Homs and Hama reaching the eastern area (Deir ez-Zor). The desert is enduring under a Russian American conflict, the intensity of which has increased by Moscow’s official statements, which accused Washington of preparing to attack the Syrian regime and to target it with heavy weapons, aircraft and “Cruise” missiles.

Four Areas without Fighting

ISIS’ progress came on (Saturday) April 7, and media outlets from the city of al-Qaryatayn told Enab Baladi that it controlled the two areas of Sabaa Biyar and ZaZa Checkpoint in the Desert, in addition to the gas well, located to the south of the city of al-Qaryatayn.

The sources added that the progress came after Assad’s forces retreat from their positions without fighting, pointing out that ISIS is trying to reach the al-Muhseh area in the east of al-Qaryatayn, which it retreated from, in March 2017.

Going back to the first months of 2017, the “Free Army” factions controlled large areas, which used to be under ISIS, on top of which are “Bīr al Afā’ī,” “Jabal al Afā‘ī,” “Jabal al-Dabaah,” “al-Zubaidi” Mount, “al-Naqab” Mount, in addition to the “Scientific Research” Company, “Abu Risha” Dam, “al-Makhoul” checkpoint, “Zaza” checkpoint, “Sabaa Biyar”area in the eastern countryside of Damascus, Homs and As-Suwayda.

The factions’ fronts have witnessed a massive retreat towards the end of 2017 for the advantage of Assad’s forces and Iranian militias, to restrict its presence to the surrounding of al-Tanf border base and the cities of eastern Qalamun.

ISIS did not comment on its spread in the Desert; Assad’s forces, similarly, did not issue any statements about their withdrawal from the area.

According to the field control map, ISIS advanced from the direction of the enclave it controls in the west of the city of Abu Kamal. The disatance it manged to size is about 160 kilometers.

The Zaza checkpoint which ISIS has controlled is located in the Palmyra triangle. Its importance lies in its being a first defense line to protect the al-Seen/Sin airbase and in being a threat to the Free Army factions, functioning in the al-Tanf base and an area of 55 kilometers.

The area of Sabaa Biyar looks out to the al-Seen airbase, al-Dumayr, Baghdad Highway and Abu al-shamat; it also connects As-Suwayda with rural Damascus and the eastern countryside of Homs.


What Is It that ISIS Want?

ISIS, after retreating from the city of Abu Kamal, initiated a number of attacks on the Assad’s forces positions in the surrounding of Deir ez-Zor, reaching the Syrian Desert. In the past a few days, it announced the death of dozens of Assad’s forces in the surrounding of T2.

ISIS movement corresponds to the threats which Assad’s forces directed to the military factions, functioning in the eastern Qalamun, ordering them to retreat from the area or to stay within it, providing that they surrender their weapons and accept the reconciliation.

The information that Enab Baladi managed to get, last March, show the intention of the US-backed factions in the Desert to initiate a large military operation, seeking to control areas that reach the borders of Deir ez-Zor governorate.

According to the military analyst, the brigadier general and pilot Hatem al-Rawi, the Deseret area is a clear featured plain geography, empty of terrain which help in hiding, stressing that any military side cannot move through it without aerial support, which depends on having a regional side backing its progress.

Al-Rawi told Enabb Baladi that ISIS’ movement is in the service of America, which besieged Russia in Syria, after it controlled large areas of Syria’s borders with Iraq, Jordan and part of Turkey.

The military analyst does not exclude the possibility that ISIS’ movement in the area seeks to trigger America to find an allegation to link the area of al-Tanf with the eastern Qalamun in the frame of the operation that has been discussed in the past a few days.

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