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Published On: Mon, Jul 17th, 2017

Syrian Arab Army captures strategic cities and oil fields in Raqqa

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nsnbc : The Syrian Arab Army, backed by the Syrian and Russian air forces and allied forces, seized a number of oil wells in southwest Raqqa province on Saturday, as retreating Islamic State militants battled to defend their remaining territory in the country, and in particular, around the embattled, so-called ISIS capital Raqqa.

Oil pump near al-Hawl, currently in YPG / SDF controlled area of Raqqa province. (archives)

Oil pump near al-Hawl, currently in YPG / SDF controlled area of Raqqa province. (archives)

Syrian Arab and allied forces have taken control of Wahab, al Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the desert area in the southwest of Syria’s Raqqa province. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed by Popular Self-Defense Forces as well as by Iranian-backed militia have, over the past months, been advancing from the direction of Aleppo and Damascus toward Raqqa, as ISIS militants were withdrawing from Aleppo province to defend the city of Raqqa, the “capital” of their self-proclaimed “caliphate”.

The SAA and allied forces seized swathes of territory west of the Euphrates River that militants. Meanwhile the U.S.-backed, predominantly Syrian – Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces also seized large territories from ISIS and the SDF are now battling ISIS inside of Raqqa city. It is also worth noting that the U.S. is backing Iraqi – Sunni tribal forces to help “secure” the Iraqi – Syrian border, while the US and “coalition partners” are trying to limit the influence of Iranian-backed militia in Raqqa as well as in southern Syria.

The latest gains of the SAA tighten the army’s grip on a bulge of territory stretching from eastern Hama province to eastern Homs and the edge of Raqqa and Deir Zor provinces. The army’s next goal is reportedly to retake the town of Sukhna, a gateway to the eastern province of Deir Zor that borders Iraq and likely to be the militants’ last major bastion in Syria if Raqqa falls.

The SAA and its Iranian-backed allies have also announced in the last few days steady gains in the desert northeast of the ancient city of Palmyra with their capture of the Hail gas field that brought them almost 18 kms south of Sukhna. Heavy fighting has continued in the last 72 hours near Hail and the nearby Arak gas field that the Syrian army took last month.

The army and Iranian-backed militias have been engaged in a campaign since May to fill the void left by the retreat of militants in areas they once controlled in the vast eastern Syrian desert that stretches all the way from central Syria to the south eastern border with Iraq and Jordan. It is here that the U.S.-led “coalition” tries to limit the Iranian influence, and – according to independent analysts – tries to disrupt the Iran – Syria – Lebanon axis that is vital for Hezbollah.

In the southeastern desert, heavy fighting continued between the army and its Iranian backed allies on one side and the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in the rugged eastern countryside of the city of Sweida in southern Syria. The army said it had captured most of these areas that are also near the border with Jordan, while the rebels said they had inflicted losses on Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group and Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

F/AK – nsnbc 17.07.2017

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