Syrian regime forces advance on IS in Syrian Desert

Syrian regime forces advance on IS in Syrian Desert
2 min read
19 November, 2018
Syria's military is advancing on IS forces who have retreated to the Syrian Desert.
Syria's regime is advancing on IS in southern Syria [Getty]
Syrian regime forces are continuing to advance on Islamic State group militants who have fled to the Syrian Desert, according to media reports

The offensive is part of a campaign to dislodge IS from a pocket of territory between Damascus and Suweida provinces, where the group established a foothold in the volcanic hills of al-Safa.

They were forced to retreat these positions over the weekend following a fierce offensive by regime forces, which have included heavy artillery, air and tank bombardments.

The military is aided by former rebels who joined the regime forces in the battle against IS.

The militants are thought to have retreated to areas that include the towns of al-Hasa and al-Rahba, with former rebels telling Reuters they believe the IS fighters are trying to "disappear" among the urban population.

The group is believed to be responsible for the abduction of dozens of Druze civilians earlier this year, following a massacre of villages in Suweida.

Around 250 people were murdered by IS, mostly Druze civilians, following the July attacks on villages in southern Syria.

The Syrian regime managed to free most of the hostages, but have been blamed for cutting security in the area, giving the IS group easy access to the Druze villages.

A larger contingent of IS fighters is holed up in eastern Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have renewed an offensive on the group.

The militants hold a number of villages in the Euphrates Valley, but their strength is thought to be seriously depleted following their collapse in Iraq and near-defeat in Syria.

With US air strikes, the SDF have managed to capture most of IS' former territories in northern and eastern Syria, including the group's self-declared "capital", Raqqa.

Separate Turkish-led rebel and regime assaults have also seen IS' territories dwindle to a fraction of the territory the group held in 2014.