by James Tweedie
THE Syrian army is engaged in a race to lift Isis’s three-year siege of Deir Ezzor — hoping to beat the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to the strategically important city.
The SDF, which is backed by the US-led coalition, attacked south from their positions near Isis-held Raqqa, capturing two villages five miles north of ar-Rusafah.
But Syria’s Tiger Forces brigade took another settlement just two miles west of the ancient Roman town and important crossroads.
The army’s intention to leapfrog the SDF forces fighting the remnants of Isis in its self-declared capital of Raqqa and drive east to lift the siege became clear on Saturday.
The Tiger Forces launched an eastward offensive from the points they captured on the main road from Hama to the SDF-held Tabqa dam on the Euphrates.
Further advances could allow them to cut off the southern Isis escape route from Raqqa and reach the main road to Deir Ezzor, which has held out against the terrorists for three years.
The army declared a 48-hour ceasefire in the southern city of Deraa at noon on Saturday, halting two weeks of fighting with opposition forces.
The army general command said the pause was being implemented to support “reconciliation efforts.”
This came following an announcement by the UN calling for a fresh round of talks on July 10 in Geneva.
Little progress has been made so far from talks between representatives of rebel factions and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The UN welcomed the ceasefire but urged Syria to uphold its commitment and urged opposition groups to also suspend fighting to allow humanitarian aid into the region.