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NOW

Syria regime pressing
desert drive

Pro-Assad forces have set their sights on Al-Sukhna, a town on the M20 highway leading to Deir Ezzor.

Syrian tank. (AFP)

BEIRUT – Syrian regime forces are preparing to wage a battle to seize an ISIS-held desert oasis town on a strategic road running to the Deir Ezzor province.

 

Following the fall of Palmyra on March 27, the Syrian army and allied forces have set their sights on Al-Sukhna, which lies a little over 70 kilometers east of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

“Warplanes continue to [bomb] ISIS members in Al-Sukhna and its environs in preparation for an attack on the town following the liberation of Qaryatayn,” pro-regime daily Al-Watan wrote Thursday morning.

 

Syrian regime forces have encircled Qaryatayn—a town southwest of Palmyra on the edges of the country’s vast semi-desert—amid reports of an imminent offensive.

 

Qaryatayn was first seized by ISIS in August 2015, and has since been used a staging ground for the jihadist group’s offensives eastward into the outskirts of the Eastern Qalamoun mountains.

 

Even as battles continue to rage outside Qaryatayn, the Syrian regime has started to mobilize troops for the drive on Al-Sukhna, which lies on the M20 highway leading to Deir Ezzor city, where regime forces have managed to hold onto a pocket of territory despite repeated ISIS attacks.

 

“Regime forces supported by allied militiamen of Syrian, Arab and Asian nationalities… are massing in the Wadi al-Ahmar area east of Palmyra in preparation for a wide-scale attack on Al-Sukhna,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday.

 

The monitoring NGO tracking developments in the war-torn country added that Russian military advisors were taking part in the preparations for the assault.

 

The capture of Al-Sukhna, which fell to ISIS in May 2015, would serve as a strategic boon for the regime, allowing it to once again resupply its troops in Deir Ezzor by land.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report.

A Syrian army tank outside Palmyra. (AFP)

The monitoring NGO tracking developments in the war-torn country added that Russian military advisors were taking part in the preparations for the assault.