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Syria forces in near-full siege of IS in Deir az-Zour

Fighting is intense between Syrian regime forces and IS militants in Deir az-Zour [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 September, 2017

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Syrian regime forces are close to surrounding Islamic State militants in Deir az-Zour, bringing them in a direct race with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the common fight against IS.
Russian-backed Syrian forces have all but encircled Islamic State militants in the eastern city of Deir az-Zour, an activist group said.

The state-run news agency SANA said fighting was intense between pro-regime forces and IS in the village of Husseinieh on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, across from the remaining militant pockets in the city on the other side.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Husseinieh is the only contested village on the eastern side of the river before the militants are fully surrounded.

Russian engineers extended pontoon bridges across the Euphrates, facilitating the dispatch of reinforcements to the eastern banks of the river, where Syrian troops are closing in on IS militants from the west.

Backed by Russia, Syrian forces have advanced since early September on Deir az-Zour, where the militants had besieged government troops in a military base in the north and at an air base south of the city.

Since breaching that siege, regime forces have crossed the river, bringing them in a direct race with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are also battling militants on the eastern side of the river and in rural Deir az-Zour.

The race for control of territory and resources in the oil-rich province has caused friction between the two sides.

Russia and the United States say they are working out a deconfliction mechanism to prevent the two forces from clashing in the common fight against IS, but on September 16 six SDF fighters were wounded in air strikes by regime and Russian warplanes in the al-Sinaaiya area. Russia denies the claim.

Syria's eastern territories has become a potential battleground between the two sides, and the resource rich areas could be particularly lucrative prizes.

Professor Joshua Landis, of the University of Oklahoma, said both groups were heading for oil-rich territories. "Both the Syrian army and the SDF are making a play for the Euphrates Valley, where a great deal of Syria's oil is situated," he told The New Arab

"Most wells are just north of the Euphrates. It now seems that the SDF, with US backing, wants that oil.

"Control over this oil gives the SDF a source of revenue for its semi-autonomous - and unrecognised - federal democratic polity in the Syrian Kurdish territories, and other territories it has captured from IS where they have established military councils, such as Manbij."

Deir az-Zour

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