Middle East and North Africa

Islamic State’s downward trend continues in Syria and Iraq

Credit: Wikipedia

Syria’s army has liberated the city of Dir al-Zor from Islamic State, according to an announcement made by the Syrian military on 3 November.

The statement said: “The armed forces, in cooperation with allied forces, liberated the city of Deir al-Zor completely from the clutches of the Daesh [Islamic State] terrorist organisation.”

Deir al-Zor, central to the oil industry,  on the western bank of the River Euphrates, is eastern Syria’s largest and important city. Islamic State (IS) had been besieging the city for years until September when government reinforcements arrived to tip the balance against them.

Now, the army, supported by Russian bombers, Iran and Shiite militias, is continuing its advance to Albu Kamal, also on the western bank of the Euphrates. This is the last major town held in Syria by IS, who have terrorised Christians in the territory they have occupied: torching churches, taking Christians as hostages and forced labourers, and murdering them.

This continues the downward trend for IS and their allies, who lost Marawi city to Philippine forces on 23 October and their former capital, Raqqa, to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their Kurd and Arab militia allies on 17 October.

There was a further blow to Islamic State militants in Iraq as government forces entered al-Qaim, one of the last remaining territories in the country still held by Islamic State (IS) militants, according to the Joint Operations Command on 3 November.

The government are also preparing to recapture the nearby town of Rawa on the border area with Syria.  The US-backed coalition, has been running airstrikes against over 1,500 IS fighters remain inside al-Qaim.

Iraqi army units, supported by Counter-Terrorism Services, Sunni tribal militias, and the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation forces on Friday say that this is part of their final offensive to flush out the jihadists on the Iraqi side of IS-held territory that straddles the border with Syria.