US-backed Syria force to begin Deir az-Zor offensive

US-backed Syria force to begin Deir az-Zor offensive
Syrian Democratic Forces will announce the start of a campaign in Deir az-Zor province on Saturday, where regime fighters are also battling IS.
2 min read
09 September, 2017
SDF fighters will begin an offensive on Deir az-Zor [AFP]
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces will announce the start of an offensive on Islamic State group-held Deir az-Zor province on Saturday as the battle for Raqqa rumbles on.

A senior SDF official told Reuters news agency that the Kurdish-Arab force would enter the Deir az-Zor from Hassakeh to the north and battle IS fighters in the north of the province.

The campaign would see IS attacked on two fronts in Deir az-Zor, as the Syrian regime intensifies its offensive on the provincial capital.

Pro-regime fighters managed to break a IS siege on government-controlled parts of Deir az-Zor city this week and is moving towards the airport.

The offensive brings a possibility of clashes between regime and SDF fighters who are looking to carve up as much territory in the north and east of Syria as IS collapses.

US airstrikes will boost the SDF offensive on the ground, bringing the possibility of errors as happened last year when anti-IS coalition planes bombed regime positions in Deir az-Zour killing over a hundred fighters. Washington described the incident as a mistake.

A Russia - which backs the Syrian regime - and the US made an agreement in 2015, to see province separated into two areas of operation to prevent accidental clashes between the two sides.

The US is said to be monitoring the advance of the Syrian regime force and Iranian militias in Deir az-Zor.

"We do monitor and watch where they are and where they are going at the same time as they move closer to the middle of the Euphrates Valley," said US-led coalition Spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.

Meanwhile, the former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has said the offensive "complicates" the situation as it could see Washington potentially working with the regime in the province.

Despite recent regime advances, the battle for control of the city is far from concluding with IS launching a defence for Deir az-Zor.

"The fight in the city will be long and difficult. We should not expect a rapid victory for the Syrian army in Deir az-Zor," he said.

"Deir az-Zor is for whoever captures the middle of the city."