BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:30 P.M.) – With ISIS resistance along the western shore of the Euphrates all but liquidated, evidence is now beginning to emerge that sheds light on the intensity of the final set-piece battle between the Islamic State and the Syrian Arab Army in eastern Syria, one which took place in the least expected location.
As can now be seen, ISIS fighters operating on the Euphrates’ western bank chose to make their final stand in and between the towns of Al-Qurayya and Al-Asharah, these being two settlements otherwise unheard of and small in comparison to cities like Deir Ezzor, Al-Mayadeen and Abu Kamal where it was thought the most fanatical resistance would be encountered.
At Al-Qurayya and Al-Asharah, ISIS fought – speaking strictly in military terms (not moral terms) – an admirable rear-guard action.
Terrorist militants – outnumbered, outgunned and pounded remorselessly from the air by Russian heavy bombers on a daily basis – managed to hold off the best units of the Syrian Arab Army for over two weeks and buy time enough for other fighters to withdraw to the eastern shore of the Euphrates where they will most likely surrender to US-backed forces.
Through a combination explosive traps, car bombs, snipers and a general unwillingness among jihadist militants to give up their positions until the last man had been killed, ISIS inflicted heavy losses on the Syrian Army, repelled multiple assaults and even launched several successful counter-attacks which saw it reclaim lost positions a number of times over.
The line at which ISIS made its last stand was part of a greater defensive belt running from Muhassan to Abu Kamal. This defense line was mostly bypassed by pro-government forces and with the rapid capture of Al-Mayadeen and Abu Kamal, it was thought that the belt had been shattered.
In any case, despite the overwhelming odds against them, it appears that ISIS militants – driven out of Al-Mayadeen to the north and Abu Kamal to the south – managed to quickly regroup and salvage a solid adhoc defense line around two otherwise unheard of towns on the western Euphrates shore where they would fight their last major battle in Syria’s east.