MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Daesh jihadist group (IS, ISIS, ISIL), as well as other cities is now a top priority for Syrian government forces, Syria's President Bashar Assad said Saturday.
"We are very close to Raqqa now. Yesterday, our troops reached the Euphrates River which is very close to Raqqa city, and Raqqa is the stronghold of ISIS today, so it’s going to be a priority for us, but that doesn’t mean the other cities are not priority," Assad was quoted as saying by the SANA news agency.
Assad added that the liberation of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor cities from terrorists could take several months.
"If we presume that you don’t have foreign intervention, it will take a few months," Assad said, answering the question on how many days the war was going to last.
Daesh terrorists had surrounded the Deir ez-Zor military airfield in Syria's northeast by mid-January.
Commenting on the development of the situation in the area, the Russian General Staff said that if terrorists capture Deir ez-Zor, civilians would be subjected to genocide and the local population could be completely wiped out.
The city of Deir ez-Zor, which is still held by Syrian government forces, has been under siege from Daesh since July 2014. The residents of Deir ez-Zor and the servicemen only receive food and humanitarian aid via air-drops. On January 30, the United Nations resumed aid deliveries after a two-week pause.
The Raqqa Knot
The Syrian Army is not the only side seeking to liberate Raqqa.
The offensive to liberate Raqqa from Daesh, codenamed Operation Euphrates Rage, was launched by the SDF on November 5, 2016.
The civil war in Syria has been lasting for around six years with government troops fighting against numerous opposition factions and terror organizations such as al-Nusra Front and Daesh, outlawed in Russia.
The nationwide Syrian ceasefire regime was introduced on December 30, 2016. Terrorist organizations are not part of the ceasefire.