The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – led by the elite Tiger Forces – has expanded its zone of control over the entire Ethiryah-Rusafa highway and de facto besieged any ISIS forces that may have not yet retreated from the region of Khanasser.
According to a military source, the SAA has, over the last week, repeatedly tried to force ISIS to retreat from the Khanasser region (the terrorist group’s last stronghold in Aleppo Governonate) by leaving open a 20 kilometre-wide corridor of un-liberated space along the Ethriyah-Rusafa highway through which a strategic withdrawal was possible. In any case, it appears that ISIS forces in Khanasser have not taken up the unannounced, yet obvious, offer to withdraw in relative safety and as of this morning, the patience of the Tiger Forces expired.
The Tiger Forces started their operation to expel ISIS from its last string of footholds along the Ethriyah-Rusafa raod early this morning. The operation resulted in the successful capture of the Zakiyah junction and the liberation of the villages of Salah al-Awad and Jib Ajaj. The Tiger forces stormed these areas from their positions around Rusafa, advancing from the western direction until they linked up with SAA units advancing eastbound via Ithriyah. The ultimate operational result was a general collapse of ISIS forces in the face of their being completely out-manned, out-gunned and out-maneuvered by the SAA.
Lastly, it is also worth nothing that this most recent accomplishment by the SAA has a second strategic benefit in the form of a new, and more direct, line of communication that has now been opened to pro-government forces stationed in the area of Rusafa (south of Tabaqah); the original supply line to this area was exceptionally longer running from Ethriyah, to Aleppo, to Deir Hafer, to Maskanah, and then finally to Rusafa. The new line of supply runs directly to Rusafa via Ethriyah, shaving many precious hours off the original logistical haul. The capture of this stretch of critical highway will increase the sustainability of any future operations the SAA may have to strike at Deir Ezzor from the northern direction.