Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters continued to advance in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on Wednesday following “rare” clashes with government forces.
The director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that clashes between ISIS fighters and Syrian government forces erupted in Deir Ezzor after Damascus resumed attempts to cut the terrorist group’s supply lines.
“The ISIS-backed wali [Governor] of Deir Ezzor led the clashes [on Tuesday] which resulted in the death of 10 Syrian soldiers,” Abdulrahman said.
The clashes broke out close to the Syrian army’s last remaining base in the province, which has now almost completely fallen under ISIS control. US airstrikes have continued to pound ISIS positions in Deir Ezzor and beyond this week, although the Islamist militants continue to advance on the ground.
Renewed clashes were reported in the area of Huwayja Saqer in Deir Ezzor on Wednesday resulting in the death of five ISIS fighters and five government soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory. Damascus authorized air raids against ISIS positions in Huwayja Saqer, with observers reporting that at least three government air raids had taken place there over the past two days. They said barrel bombs were dropped during some of these raids.
At least 17 government soldiers have been killed in the clashes with the Islamist group in Deir Ezzor over the past few days.
ISIS advanced into the town of Hatla in eastern Deir Ezzor on Tuesday evening, the Syrian Observatory reported, arresting at least 11 people—including the town’s mayor—and imposing a curfew.
Elsewhere in Syria, Damascus removed two senior Homs security officials from their posts in response to popular demands. The head of the Homs Security Committee, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Jamil, and the head of Homs Military Intelligence, Abdulkarim Saloum, were sacked on Tuesday following protests by government loyalists over the death of 41 children in a bombing in Homs city.
Abdulrahman told Asharq Al-Awsat “the departure of these two figures could be a sign of other impending changes among senior Syrian officials.”