On September 27th, a top commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Rojda Felat, claimed in a video statement that 100 ISIS terrorists, dressed as SDF members, attacked the SDF. The incident took place on September 26th and the SDF leader alleges that ISIS members came from some government-held area near Deir Ezzor. Felat added that this is a “sign” that the Syrian government supported the attack. Twenty-eight SDF members were killed in the clashes with ISIS. The statement came a few days after the Russian Defense Ministry released pictures of US Speical Operations Forces positions deep inside the ISIS-held area near Deir Ezzor city as well as provided information that no clashes had been observed there between ISIS and the SDF.
Meanwhile, the SDF continued clashing with ISIS near al-Suwar with an aim to establish a foothold for further operations on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. In Raqqah city, the SDF captured the al-Nawawi mosque in al-Nahdah district from ISIS and continued developing momentum in the area. The SDF repelled the ISIS raids in al-Sinaa and al-Mashleb neighborhoods. However, some 45 SDF members were reportedly killed in the clashes.
US-backed Forces and the Syrian Government are trading accusations of supporting ISIS as both make gains in Deir Ezzor.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in an interview with the Lebanese news TV channel, Al-Mayadeen, that the US is evacuating ISIS fighters from Deir Ezzor province to deploy them in other places. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies are deploying reinforcements to the Deir Ezzor area, preparing for an expected push towards the border with Iraq. Reports appeared that the military is working on establishing a second bridge crossing the Euphrates. The first one was set up by the Russians earlier this week.
Meanwhile, more information has emerged of the highest ranking Russian officer to be killed in Syria thus far in the war. Russian Lieutenant General Valery Asapov died as a result of ISIS shelling near Deir Ezzor on Septermber 23rd. He was 51 years old. Asapov was at a Syrian checkpoint when it was bombarded by ISIS forces. Russia's Ministry of Defense reports that Lieutenant General Asapov was helping the Syrian forces command the Deir Ezzor liberation campaign when he was lethally wounded in a sudden ISIS attack.
During the 1990s, Asapov took part in restoring order in Chechnya. In 1995 he was an executive officer of a battalion at Grozny, where he was wounded in the leg. Later in Abkhazia he served as part of a peacekeeping force, and after that in Russia commanded a motorized rifle brigade in Eastern Military District. Ukraine's Ministry of Defense argues that in March 2016 he allegedly commanded the 1st Army Corps of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, however, no proof has been provided so far.
General Valery Asapov was the highest ranking Russian officer to die in Syria. Source: TASS
In Syria, he worked with the 5th Assault Corps of the Syrian Army. The 5th Assault Corps is one of the main strike units of pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor city, and participated in clearing the road to the city, and then crossed the Euphrates River to its eastern bank where the majority of oil and gas infrastructure is situated.
“High prestige combined with care were outstanding features of his work,” Russia’s chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov said at General Asapov's funeral on Wednesday. “He worked as the chief of staff of the group of our forces and then was in command of the Fifth Corps of volunteers … A treacherous shell cut short his life.” The Russian pro-opposition media outlet RBC allegedly reached a “close friend” of Asapov. According to him, the Lieutenant General was known for his efforts in minimizing the amount of troop casualties during his service in Syria. The report also blamed Syrian Intelligence for low quality ground intel that potentially created preconditions for Asapov’s death.
RBC also reached the Arm Export magazine editor-in-chief Andrei Frolov . Frolov believes that the casualties are growing because of a high speed of the operation in Deir Ezzor.
“The volume and intensity of firefights increase”, Frolov told to RBC. “Apart from Russian Aerospace Forces in the air, Russian military personnel help and consult the Syrian troops on the ground. Hence more general officers in the region, and consequently the chance of them dying increases,” he added.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Asapov is the 38th Russian soldier to die in Syria. They estimate that Deir Ezzor city will be liberated soon. Now the city is 85% under Syrian control.