ISIS spares no effort to maintain its presence in Al-Raqqah Province and to repel the violent attack on its last stronghold there
ISIS has been losing control of one city and one area following the other in Al-Raqqah Province since the YPG (of which the SDF are mainly formed) started carrying out their violent counter attacks. It was since YPG regained control over Ein Al-Arab (Kobani) city in the first third of 2015 that ISIS seemed to be on the verge of fully losing its presence in the Province, which used to be fully controlled by it in mid-2015. This also came as a result of the violent attack by the regime forces and their allied militiamen, of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, and the tribal forces, who were armed and trained by the Russians, as they managed to take control of the southwestern countryside of Al-Raqqah and to put an end to ISIS presence in vast areas of the southeastern countryside of Al-Raqqah in only 10 days to the extent that the regime forces got closer than ever in the last 24 hours, only 6 km away, from the administrative border between Al-Raqqah Province and the northwestern countryside of Deir Ezzor and from the largest city that is still under the control of ISIS at the southern banks of the Euphrates in the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah. .
The SOHR observed last night that ISIS has started carrying out counter attacks by means of booby-trapped vehicles and groups of its members, sparing no effort to maintain its presence in Al-Raqqah Province. Clashes are accompanied by shells that were fired by ISIS on positions of the regime forces and their allied militiamen, amid intensive shelling by the regime forces on positions of and areas under the control of ISIS. The last 24 hours also witnessed raids targeting ISIS-controlled areas carried out by warplanes, believed to be Russian. Casualties were reported at both sides.
The SOHR published yesterday that ISIS is on the path to collapse entirely as it has started to lose many of the areas it controls, one after the other including villages, hills and oil wells and fields. The SOHR observed that clashes continue between the regime forces and their allied militiamen, of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, on one hand and ISIS on the other in areas in the southeastern countryside of Al-Raqqah. The regime forces also managed yesterday to make a new advancement that got them closer to the last city under the control of ISIS in Al-Raqqah Province, which is Ma’dan city located at the southern banks of the Euphrates at the very end of the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah. The SOHR learned that the regime forces are now 6 km away from Ma’dan and from the administrative border between Al-Raqqah Province and the northwestern countryside of Deir Ezzor. Clashes were accompanied by intensive shelling by the regime forces and by warplanes on ISIS-controlled areas and areas of clashes there.
The SOHR published yesterday morning that the regime forces and their allied militiamen started to advance into Al-Raqqah countryside on the 6th of June 2017, which marks the date when the regime forces supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah and led by Tiger groups managed to advance and enter the administrative borders of Al-Raqqah. Eventually, the regime forces were able to reach and take control of the town of Al-Resafa and then control the entire western section of the southern countryside of Al-Raqqah. They then advanced east into 2 main areas: first towards the southern banks of the Euphrates and the road of Al-Raqqah – Deir Ezzor, of which they managed to reach Hwyjet Shnan area during the last 48 hours; and second towards the administrative border of Al-Raqqah Province with the northwestern countryside of Deir Ezzor as the regime forces were about 9 km away of this border. This is considered the nearest distance the regime forces have reached from the border between Deir Ezzor and Al-Raqqah. Such advancement draws attention to the amount of power shared between the regime forces and their allied militiamen supported by Russia on one hand and the Syria Democratic Forces supported by the International Coalition on the other. This coincided with an exchange of roles observed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights between the International Coalition and the Russians. Specifically, the forces of International Coalition have halted their raids on the eastern countryside of Al-Raqqah and parts of the northwestern countryside of Deir Ezzor, handing the task over to the Russian warplanes which have carried out tens of air raids targeting villages under the control the “Islamic State” organization in the southern bank of the Euphrates, which extend from the east of Hwijat Shnan until the border with Deir Ezzor, since the 18th of July 2017. These raids have caused a massive displacement of tens of civilian families, who were forced to flee because of the intensity of the bombing and the constant destruction that inflicts on the area, under the pretext of “fighting the Islamic State organization”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also monitored an attempt by the regime forces to advance into two areas, both of which start from Rajm Al-Sleiman farms area. Their first advancement was towards the village of Ghanim Al-Ali, which will make it easy for the regime forces to control at least 6 villages and farms if they force the “Islamic State” organization to withdraw from the area before besieging it completely; whereas the second attempt is to advance towards Madan city which is the only city remaining under the full control of the “Islamic State “organization in Al-Raqqah Province, the areas of which amounts to more than 19616 square kilometers and its control is divided between several entities. On one hand, the Syria Democratic Forces supported by the US Special Forces and the International Coalition control 67.90% of the geography of Al-Raqqah province, which is more than 13300 square kilometers, while the regime forces control 22.54% of the province which is about 4450 square kilometers. On the other hand, the “Islamic State” organization still controls 9.56% of the area of Al-Raqqah province, which is more than 1875 square kilometers, though it used to control it entirely in late 2014 and early 2015. The continued violent clashes, intensive aerial and artillery bombardments, and the bombings between the regime forces and their allied militiamen and the members of the “Islamic State” organization, have caused more casualties. The death toll of the regime forces and their allied militiamen, of Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities, rose to 91 at least, including 14 officers with different ranks, in addition to the killing of at least 68 members of the organization. Also, tens of others of both parties were injured, with various degrees of severity.