The Syrian army and allied forces have broken ISIL’s siege on Deir Az Zor military airport, state media said on Saturday, hours after US-backed fighters announced a separate push against the armed group in the oil-rich eastern province.
As per the reports, the breach came “after the forces advancing from the cemetery southwest of the city linked up with the forces holding the air base”.
The latest advance of the Russia-backed forces came days after they ended another siege on residential districts of the city as they seek to oust ISIL from its last major stronghold in Syria.
The operation brought them into a race with the government forces marching in the same direction.
Ahmad Abu Khawlah, head of SDF’s Deir Az Zor Military Council, said his forces had begun fighting to push ISIL out of remaining territory in Hasakeh province and further south in Deir Az Zor in eastern Syria.
The announcement came as Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power and Hezbollah fighters, closed in from the south of Deir Az Zor city in a separate military campaign against ISIL.
The dueling battles for Deir Az Zor highlight the importance of the key eastern province, which has become the latest epicentre of the international war against ISIL, raising concerns of an eventual clash between the two sides.
The Syrian conflict, which started as a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, has drawn the military involvement of several world powers. Peace talks have repeatedly failed to bring an end to the war.
The SDF’s new push comes as its fighters are still involved in a major offensive to capture Raqqa from ISIL, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS.
Three months into the battle, they have taken around 60 percent of the city, and much more difficult urban fighting still lies ahead.