With ISIS’ three-year blockade of Deir ez-Zor effectively broken by government forces, the offensive against the terrorists continues, while humanitarian aid has started to arrive to civilians in the city, who say they were “on the brink of starvation.”
On Saturday, the Teym oilfield was recaptured from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in the desert south of Deir ez-Zor, according to state TV. This eastern part of Syria is an oil-rich area.
The Syrian Army and its allies have also reached an airbase near the city and are fighting to recapture the base, which was besieged by jihadists for years, a commander in the alliance fighting alongside government forces said, as cited by Reuters.
The forces now aim to retake the remaining parts of Deir ez-Zor from the terrorists. The army is said to be on the verge of fully liberating the city, which is one of the last IS strongholds in Syria.
The breaking of the blockade happened earlier this week, after a series of successful operations carried out by the Syrian Army with the support of the Russian Air Force.
Islamic State ammunition warehouses were identified by the Syrian Air Force during the operation, Syrian Army General Ahmad Sulaiman told RT, saying that the military also “listened in to meetings in which the terrorists planned attacks inside and around Deir ez-Zor.”
“With the help of Russian air power, the Syrian Air Force struck these places ahead of the arrival of Syrian government troops. This weakened ISIL’s ability to attack and to call in reinforcements from Raqqa and Palmyra,” the Syrian Army commander said.
He added that the Syrian forces “fought fierce battles,” as the jihadists “had planted improvised explosive devices and car bombs all around.”
Meanwhile, humanitarian convoys started to arrive in Deir ez-Zor for the first time since the siege was broken. For the past three years, locals have depended on air drops from a military air field controlled by one of the Syrian Army’s brigades.
“People in Deir ez-Zor were on the brink of starvation. We were desperate for food and water to reach the city, that was all we wanted. And thank God, help has now arrived,” a local man told RT.
“We cannot describe how relieved we are. People were dying,” another resident among those queuing for food, water, and other vital supplies said.
Russia also joined the humanitarian efforts and sent convoys to the newly liberated parts of the city. On Saturday, bottled drinking water, food, medicine, and other vital supplies from Russia were distributed, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria reported.
According to the Russian military, efforts are also being made to facilitate the return of refugees to their homes, as infrastructure is being restored in the areas freed from the terrorists. Moscow is actively participating to help the Syrians speed up the work to restore hospitals, schools, bakeries, as well as water and energy supplies.
In June, IS controlled around a quarter of the country. But in the past three months, the terrorist group has lost around half of those territories. At the moment, it still partly holds the Deir ez-Zor province, as well as territories near Hama and Homs in western Syria.