Weakened as they are, however, the terrorists still remain a force to be reckoned with, staging regular flanking attacks including with explosives-laden “Jihadmobiles.”
“Deir ez-Zor will be a tough nut to crack as the most battle-worthy and best-armed Daesh fighters are all there, turning the parts of the city they still control into fortresses,” military expert Anatoly Tsyganok told Sputnik.
That being said, the Syrian Army has come a long way since 2015. This is in part due to Russian instructors training about 20 full brigades, including those who took Aleppo and know how to fight in an urban setting.
In August, Syrian government forces, backed by Russian aviation, liberated the town of Al-Sukhnah, overlooking the strategic M20 highway which connects Deir ez-Zor with Palmyra, and are now moving northeast methodically flushing out jihadist militants on both sides of the highway.
Meanwhile, the Russian Aerospace Forces and warships in the Mediterranean are clearing the way for the advancing Syrian government forces with airstrikes and cruise missile attacks.
On September 14, the submarines Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino from the Russian Black Sea Fleet hit command centers, communication hubs, as well as ammunition depots in Daesh-controlled areas to the east of the city of Deir ez-Zor.
Mopping Up Idlib
It looks like expanding the security zones is exactly what the Syrian government is going to do after Deir ez-Zor has been liberated.
According to Chief of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Col.-Gen. Igor Korobov, there are more than 9,000 al-Nusra terrorists in Idlib who are trying to establish their control over the region.
He added that there are an estimated additional 15,000 al-Nusra militants currently fighting all over Syria.
On September 4, a member of the Syrian government delegation at the Astana talks, Fateh Hassoun, said that the Syrian opposition supported the idea of setting up a fourth de-escalation zone in Idlib.
He added, however, that even if an agreement to this effect is reached, its implementation could be seriously hampered by the presence of Al-Nusra Front terrorists in the northern province.
After the fall of Deir ez-Zor, the Syrian Arab Army and the Russian Aerospace Forces are likely to focus on flushing out the remaining terrorists and restore law and order in and around the province.
He added that deconfliction talks between the United States and Russia have led to significant improvement in terms of mitigating the risk of accidental clashes in Syria.
The United States, Russia, Iran and other players are running out of room to avoid direct conflicts as territory ruled by the Daesh terrorist group shrinks and fighting becomes more intense.