The Islamic State has recently launched an offensive to take the airport in the provincial capital of Deir al Zour, which is the last major military outpost for the Syrian Army in the province.
On Dec. 5, the Islamic State captured the al Jafra village on the outskirts of the airport. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that after the village fell, the Islamic State reached the airport gates, prefacing the current siege. The SOHR also reported that “37 fighters from ISIS and 30 soldiers from the regime” were killed while fighting in al Jafra.
Several Islamic State-affiliated Twitter accounts also noted on Dec. 8 that the jihadist group was able to breach the walls of the airport via a suicide car bomb and that fighting ensued inside the facility. However, this claim has not been independently verified.
As Syrian forces battle the Islamic State at the airport, the United States and its coalition partners also launched airstrikes near Deir al Zour on Dec 5. The strikes “destroyed three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL excavator and struck an ISIL training camp,” according to US Central Command.
The airport, which is one of the last Syrian government strongholds in the province, is a crucial hub for regime activities in the area. If the Islamic State is able to overrun it, the regime would be unable to provide close air support to its soldiers in the city and the surrounding areas. The jihadist group’s seizure of the airport would also hamper supply lines for regime soldiers in Deir al Zour; however, as the government still holds the Damascus-Tadmur (Palmyra)-Deir al Zour highway, loss of the airport would not stop all aid and resupply to Syrian Army forces.
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