AMMAN Syrian rebels have seized substantial regions from Islamic Condition in southern Syria in the last two months as the jihadist group prepares to protect its Raqqa stronghold in the north from a U.S.-backed assault, rebel commanders say.
The advances by Western-backed Cost-free Syrian Army (FSA) factions have assisted to decrease the chance of Islamic Condition fighters regrouping in regions near Damascus and the Jordanian border as they confront major defeats in Syria and Iraq.
Western intelligence sources have apprehensive for months that militants fleeing from their key city strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq could come across a harmless haven in the huge regions of the Syrian Desert bordering Jordan.
The rebels battling in southern Syria have acquired armed forces help funneled via Jordan in a program overseen by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Their sudden gains are a culmination of months of covert functions in which they have ambushed and cut communications strains to weaken the militants’ stronghold in the southeastern border area near to Iraq, the rebels say.
“Extensive regions have fallen into our arms. (Islamic Condition) has been pushed out of them in weighty clashes in 16 times of battles,” reported Talas al Salameh, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya, the most significant of the FSA teams in the area.
“(Islamic Condition) had cut roads and ended up in control and had been positioned in former Syrian army bases with a robust presence and with weighty armor. We cut backlinks amongst their regions and as a end result they started to retreat,” al-Salamah reported.
In northern Syria, Islamic Condition has arrive less than rising armed forces stress in recent months from individual campaigns staying waged by the U.S.-backed Arab and Kurdish fighters, by the Russian-backed Syrian army and by Turkey-backed FSA teams.
The U.S.-led coalition versus Islamic Condition is backing an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – in the campaign to isolate and capture Raqqa metropolis on the other side of the country.
Salamah reported Islamic Condition had pulled hundreds of fighters from the regions where by his group, doing work with four others, had designed its advances, suggesting they had been redeployed to support protect Raqqa and Deir al-Zor province to the east.
The advances have taken put in a swathe of sparsely populated territory stretching from the city of Bir Qassab, some 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Damascus, all the way to the borders with Iraq and Jordan, a desert area acknowledged as the Badia.
“In the event of the slide of Raqqa and Mosul, where by would they go? They would be coming right here. So we made a decision to work and kick them out of this area in advance of they would arrive to us,” Salameh told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The rebels have also seized control of the eastern slopes of the Qalamoun mountains to the northwest of Bir Qassab, where by Islamic State’s presence had disappeared as it moved its forces even further north, he reported.
The rebels say their campaign in the area had been little by little escalated above the last 5 months.
Mentioned Seif, an official in a further FSA faction, the Shahid Ahmad al-Abdo group, reported 250 square km (ninety six square miles) had been captured in the Badia on your own.
Salameh reported at the very least 117 of his fighters had been killed in ferocious battling above the last handful of months in what he reported ended up relentless assaults and ambushes by the militants.
His group initial fought Islamic Condition when it took above sections of Deir al-Zor province at the top of its growth in 2014. His fighters regrouped in regions near the Jordanian border, where by their base was hit in a Russian air strike last yr.
(Editing by Tom Perry and Tom Heneghan)