Wed 14 Nov 2018

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Reasons Helping “ISIS” Keep Its Last Strongholds East of Euphrates

“ISIS” attack against “SDF” positions at the town of al-Shaafah, eastern Deir ez-Zor – October 26, 2018 (Amaaq)

“ISIS” attack against “SDF” positions at the town of al-Shaafah, eastern Deir ez-Zor – October 26, 2018 (Amaaq)

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Despite the rapid collapse of massive areas throughout Syria, once controlled by the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in the past two days, “ISIS” managed to preserve control over the Hajin enclave, the last of its strongholds in the area east of the Euphrates, and it is yet fiercely defending its posts, shifting from defense to attack lately.

The “Islamic State” utilized the changing weather conditions and the highly experienced foreign troops within its lines to defend its last enclave in eastern rural Deir ez-Zor, during battles undertaken by the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) to expel “ISIS” from the area, despite the density of the confrontations backed by the aerial forces of the US-led coalition.

What Holds “SDF” off?

The “Syrian Democratic Forces” justified their lack of progress at the advantage of “ISIS” in the Hajin area, eastern Deir ez-Zor, with reasons relating to the excessive landmines and tunnels, blocking their advancement, the fighting experience of its foreign troops and the weather conditions, especially sand storms, which “ISIS” is exploiting to conduct attacks and escape the reconnaissance aircraft.

According to what Raidor Khalil, leader at “SDF,” has told “France Press” two weeks ago, “the military operations in Hajin will take a longer time than expected,” adding that the “Islamic State” is utilizing the weather conditions a lot, including sand storms, and that “this has helped it escape reconnaissance aircraft and other observation methods.”

Khalil explained that “ISIS” troops “have dug tunnels, constructed obstacles and planted explosive devices, which is hindering the progress of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” pointing out that the majority of the Jihadists are “foreigners,” in a gesture at the foreign troops of the “Islamic State,” who gathered in its last enclaves at the Syrian-Iraqi borders, after its control areas shrank in 2017.

In the same context, Lilwa al-Abdullah, spokeswomen of the “al-Jazeera Storm” campaign, said that what is handicapping “SDF” is the massive number of landmines planted in the area, and the “Islamic State’s” usage of civilians as human shields during its attacks, explaining that the “Islamic State” has in the past days conducted attacks against “SDF” positions, resorting to these factors, in addition to the weather conditions.

For the past days, “SDF” has been reporting its progress in the area at all directions, but this advancement is limited to meters away from the wide and massive progress.

A Shift from Defense to Attack

Under the ongoing military operations against the “Islamic State” from four directions, the latter conducted a number of attacks on “SDF” posts in the past a few days, shifting from defense to attack in an attempt to recontrol the posts it has lately lost, on top of which are al-Sousa and al-Baghuz Fawqani.

On October 27, the ISIS-affiliated “Amaaq” agency has posted images of “SDF” troops, who died during an attack on their positions in al-Shaafah and al-Sousa areas; it also announced the death of more than 40 troops and capturing others of the “al-Nukhbah” (Elite Forces).

Because of these attacks, the US-led coalition bombarded the city of Hajin and its surrounding villages with white phosporus munitions, leading to the death of a number of civilians, according to local news networks, including “Furat Post” (Euphrates Post).

According to the field control map, the control of the “Islamic State” in Syria is currently limited to two enclaves. The first expands from the eastern countryside of Homs to Deir ez-Zor desert. The second is in the area of Hajin, rural Abu Kamal. The military operations of “SDF” are concentrated towards Hajin enclave at four directions: Hajin, al-Shadadi, al-Kasrah and al-Baghuz.

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