Assad’s Forces Begin Campaign to Control Deir Ezzor Desert
Assad’s forces and other allied militias have begun a military operation to end ISIS influence in Deir Ezzor’s desert (badiya) areas.
The state media channel “SANA” reported on Friday 11 May that regime forces had gained control of an area of around 1,500 square kilometres of the badiya, in addition to the al-Faydah, Faydah bin Mawina, and al-Tamah areas about 80 km south-west of Deir Ezzor city.
The main focus of the operation is the areas adjacent to al-Mayadeen city, with Assad’s troops advancing around 60 km into the desert.
According to the government’s “Central War Media” network, regime forces had cut off transport lines for ISIS deep into the badiya, which they believe will provide greater “protection” for eastern rural areas in Deir Ezzor Governorate.
ISIS has not commented on the battles in the badiya areas which it controls. In recent days the organisation has made these areas a key launching ground for attacks on nearby positions held by Assad’s forces.
In April ISIS gained control of areas around al-Sukhna town in Homs Governorate, without achieving broader influence in this area.
Maps tracking different factions’ control in the area show that ISIS retains a small pocket of desert around Deir Ezzor city, in addition to areas around al-Bukamal and along the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The regime’s campaign is occurring at the same as a similar operation announced last week by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), which aims to clear out ISIS fighters along the eastern coast of the Euphrates river.
The badiya includes broad areas extending from eastern Suweida and Rif Dimashq governorates as well as Homs and Hama all the way to the east of Deir Ezzor Governorate. The areas have seen conflicts involving US and Russian forces.
Assad’s forces in the area are fighting alongside militants from the “Lebanese Hizbullah” faction as well as nine other foreign militias. The most prominent of these is Iran’s IRGC. The regime also receives air support from the Russian military.
The military analyst Brigadier General Hatem al-Rawi told Enab Baladi that the badiya region is a flat and open region without terrain enabling militant forces to hide. Al-Rawi said that any military forces moving in the region would be visible to aircraft belonging to the area’s other factions.