BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:15 P.M.) – Major General of the Syrian Republican Guard Issam Zahreddine said that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and allied forces have “destroyed IS and its dreams” in Deir ez-Zor, speaking from the frontlines about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the city, Tuesday.
“Despite the siege by Daesh, and the scarcity of all needs of survival, water, electricity, food, the army and the friendly forces persevered in defending Deir ez-Zor,” Zahreddine said.
The general described the siege by self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIL/ISIS), now falling apart, saying, “we were like an island in the middle of an ocean, totally isolated.”
SAA units had linked up with the previously-surrounded troops, thus breaking a three-year-long siege of the government-held enclave of Deir ez-Zor, with the help of the SAA Tiger Forces (also known as the Qawat Al-Nimr).
The SAA reached the Brigade 137 base on the western edge of Deir ez-Zor, where a garrison of the Syrian army had been surrounded by IS since 2014.
In recent days, pro-government forces have made rapid advances with tanks and helicopters to push through IS lines. The link-up to the garrison followed days of fierce battles in which the SAA and its allies swiftly seized IS positions. Much of Deir ez-Zor province, including a military air base and a number of towns and villages, remains under IS control.
Deir ez-Zor, which is situated southeast of IS’ former stronghold of Raqqa, has been under siege by IS since 2014.
SOT, Issam Zahreddine, Major General of the Syrian Republican Guard (Arabic): “This decision by the leaders to open the roads and meet with the forces defending Deir ez-Zor. The forces have advanced on various fronts; the direction from rural Aleppo, in the direction of rural Raqqa and the direction of Deir ez-Zor. The second frontline, from the direction of Palmyra, Sukhna, Deir ez-Zor, the third front from al-Badiya, […] is in the direction of also, Deir-ez-Zor. The front we are at right now is the one from Raqqa and Aleppo. The forces have reached to 2.5 kilometres from the point we are at right now. Now, the airplanes are striking the strongholds of the militants, in order to secure the entrance of the fighters and to meet with the forces defending Deir ez-Zor.”
SOT, Issam Zahreddine, Major General of the Syrian Republican Guard (Arabic): “In short, as for Deir ez-Zor, and over the past while, we were like an island in the middle of an ocean, totally isolated. The closest city is Homs, which is more than 250 kilometres away. Yet, despite the siege by Daesh, and the scarcity of all needs of survival, water, electricity, food, the army and the friendly forces persevered in defending Deir ez-Zor, in addition to the perseverance of the residents of Deir ez-Zor, which gave more incentive [for the army] to protect Deir Ez-Zor even more. Also, Daesh used over the past years, on all fronts and directions, whether from the north […] or the west […], or the east […], or other directions, they have tried with all means, using planted cars in an extensive way, in addition to repetitive attacks around d the clock, despite all of this the army perceived and destroyed Daesh and their dreams over the entrances of Deir Ez-Zor.”