As of today, the Syrian Arab Army’s 11th Division and 3rd Division have secured all hills around al-Qaraytayn city. However, with ISIS still in control of the city; their fighters now face either having to battle it out with government forces or retreat. Reportedly, the Syrian Government prefers the latter as they do not wish to suffer the casualties which will naturally be sustained by attacking a large town filled with improvised ISIS traps and potential suicide bombers. Therefore, they have left a line of retreat open for the Islamic State.
These are the hills captured north, west and south of al-Quraytan over the past 2 weeks:
– Jabal Sharifah (north)
– Jabal Muntar Rumayli (north)
– Tall Dakari (north)
– Jabal ar-Rumayli (north)
– Tulul as-Sud (west)
– Rujm al-Qa’dah (west)
– Hazm al-Abyad (west)
– Tall Ibn’ Uthman (west – very close to the city)
– Jabal Muzaybilah (south)
– Tall Wadi al-Ayn (south)
Not long ago, ISIS actually caused a temporal crisis among Syrian military commanders as they were able to advance westwards of al-Qaratayn and captured both Mahin and Sadad while marching dangerously closely to the government strongholds of Qarah and An-Nabk. Also, such a move would spell the Islamic State’s entrance to Lebanon which lies not far west of the aforementioned towns. However, this entire offensive was halted within weeks and now, ISIS remains bogged down at al-Quraytyan.
Meanwhile, in Palmyra, the Syrian government troops have also experienced some successes with capturing hilltops; nevertheless, they have failed to enter the historic city due to extensive minefields and stubborn resistance by hostile ISIS warriors. However, they do enjoy support from several highly experienced units – the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Marines, the Desert Hawk Brigade, Hezbollah (Lebanese paramilitary) along with several volunteer Iraqi paramilitary groups. In total, some 5.000 to 5.500 soldiers are stationed on the Palmyra frontline and with the Russian Airforce aiding their every move, they will likely capture Palmyra within weeks.