TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Syrian government troops Friday launched a new push toward the eastern Deir ez-Zor military airport, which has remained under a years-long siege by Daesh (ISIL or ISIS).
“The operation to break the siege on the military base began at noon today,” a Syrian military source in the city said, media reports said.
The army this week broke through one of the besieged pockets by seizing the Brigade 137 base on the western edge of the city. Troops Friday began a push toward the second encircled area, which includes the Deir ez-Zor military airport on the city’s southern edge.
The source said troops from Brigade 137 had advanced south and were now fighting in Deir ez-Zor’s vast cemetery, about a kilometer northwest of the air base.
“And southwest of the airport, the army has already seized the town of Al-Shoula,” about 40 kilometers from the base, the source said.
“It will aim to open a route between [government-held parts of the] city, the military airport and the eastern neighborhoods” still under Daesh control, the source added.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday it had killed four Daesh leaders, including one it described as the group’s war minister, in an airstrike outside Deir ez-Zor city.
The Defense Ministry said its airstrike killed 40 militants, including four prominent warlords who gathered for a meeting of Daesh commanders in an underground bunker outside Deir ez-Zor.
The Russian military named Abu Mohammad al-Shimali and Gulmurod Khalimov as two of the four Daesh leaders killed in the airstrike. The other two were not named in the statement. Shimali reportedly headed the movement of foreign fighters into Syria and processed the group’s new recruits.
Khalimov, a colonel who received US training while heading the riot police force in his native Tajikistan, has often been described as Daesh’s war minister.
Since 2014, Daesh has held swaths of Deir ez-Zor province, which border Iraq, and about 60 percent of the provincial capital.
Syria’s government remained in control of the strategic military airport and several neighborhoods in the city home to about 100,000 people, whom Daesh put under crippling siege.
Some 42 trucks loaded with food, medicine and hygiene kits for tens of thousands of needy civilians entered the city Friday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said in a statement.
The previous day, foodstuff supplied by the Syrian Trade Association was delivered to Deir ez-Zor via the road newly opened by Syria’s forces when they broke the Daesh encirclement.