Ithriyah-Raqqa offensive (June 2016)

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The Ithriyah-Raqqa offensive (June 2016) was a military operation launched in June 2016 by the Syrian Army with the stated goal of recapturing Raqqa.[16] The battle resulted in an ISIL victory, after a series of ISIL counterattacks caused the Syrian Army to withdraw from the positions it had retaken in western Raqqa.

Background

The offensive took place soon after two US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces offensives were launched. One was in Northern Raqqa with the goal of recapturing the northern Raqqa countryside, in preparation for a future offensive on the city. The second was launched towards the city of Manbij.

The offensive

On 2 June, Syrian government forces began the offensive at a distance of 120 kilometers from Raqqa.[17] They quickly advanced 20 kilometers[18] and captured the Abu al-Zein mountains and the al-Masbah area,[19] (less than 100 kilometers from Raqqa).[20]

Syrian Army T-55s advance on the Ithriyah-Raqqa Highway.

The next day, government troops captured the Zakiyah crossroad on the Hama-Raqqa provincial border, bringing them to within 47 kilometers from the ISIL-controlled Tabqa Air base. Advances were hampered by ISIL's roadside bombs.[1] Between 3 and 4 June, the military entered the Raqqa Governorate for the first time since 2014, and captured the first village inside the province (Abu Allaj), 35–40 kilometers from Tabqa.[21][22]

The offensive was temporarily halted on 4 June due to a sandstorm, but continued several hours later.[23] During this time, an ISIL counter-attack recaptured Abu Allaj village.[24] However, the next day, the Army seized Tal SyriaTel hill, ISIL's last line of defense before the village,[25] and soon after Abu Allaj itself was recaptured.[24] Later that evening, the Army reportedly seized another village.[26]

As of 6 June, the military had advanced to within 24 kilometers from Tabqa Dam and Lake Assad,[27] captured two more villages, 30 kilometers from the air base,[28][29] and was fighting at the al-Rasafeh crossroad and Raqqa international highway's police station.[30] Meanwhile, ISIL launched a counter-attack at Ithriyah, with the SOHR reporting the jihadists had cut the road between Salamiyah and Ithriyah, while Al-Manar stated the attack had been repelled.[31]

On 7 June, the military was fighting 25 kilometers south of Tabqa in the al-Rasafeh area,[32] and the SOHR initially reported the capture of the al-Rasafeh crossroad.[33] However, the Army had only reached the crossroad the following day,[34] and took control of the area two days later, with government forces being 15–20 kilometers from Tabqa. During the advance the military also seized the nearby oil fields.[35][36][37] Throughout the day, tens of Russian and Syrian air-strikes hit ISIL positions at Tabqa.[38]

On 11 June, five ISIL teenage suicide bombers attacked Army positions at the al-Rasafeh crossroad. Four bombers managed to blow themselves up, killing 8–16 soldiers, while the fifth, who was a 13-year-old boy, was captured.[39][40] Meanwhile, the military was reportedly just several kilometers from the air base and waiting for reinforcements before attacking the base.[40] On 12 June, the Army advanced within six kilometers west of the al-Rasafeh district, south of Raqqa.[41]

Shortly after midnight on 13 June, an ISIL assault, including a suicide truck-bomber, was launched against Abu Allaj. The attack was eventually repelled.[42]

After being stalled 15 kilometers from the air base for more than one week,[43] the offensive was restarted on 19 June,[44] and the Army quickly advanced to within seven kilometers of the base.[43] During the advance, they captured the nearby Thawra oil field.[45] However, later that day, an ISIL attack involving three suicide car-bombers pushed back the military and recaptured the oil field.[46] 12 hours later, the next day, the Army launched a new assault towards the Thawrah oil field[47] and managed, once again, to advance to less than seven or eight kilometers from the air base after taking back Thawrah.[48][49] However, a new ISIL counter-attack later in the day recaptured both the Thawrah and Sfaiyeh oil fields,[50] as well as the al-Rasafeh crossroad, pushing back the Army to the border of Raqqa province, 40 kilometers from the air base.[14][51] In the evening, ISIL recaptured the village of Khirbat Zeidan, coming within striking distance of the Army’s positions at Albu Allaj.[52]

The Syrian Army withdrew from Albu Allaj and the Rasafeh crossroad on 20 June. In course of the withdrawal, ISIL overran positions of Syrian Army and the government forces suffered heavy casualties, with 29 confirmed killed, 49 wounded and dozens missing-in-action, likely killed or captured.[13] Among those killed was Major General Hassan Saado, who was the chief-of-staff of the 10th Mechanized Division.[5] On 22 June, they withdrew from their final points in western Raqqa including Zakiyah crossroad and SyriaTel Hill, bringing the offensive to an end.[53]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d Leith Fadel (3 June 2016). "Syrian Army enters Raqqa after liberating the Zakiyah Crossroad, 47 km to Tabaqa: map". al-Masdar News. 
  2. ^ Syrian Army joins the race to Raqqa as several thousand soldiers pour into east Hama
  3. ^ a b Leith Fadel (6 June 2016). "Another ISIS village captured as the Syrian Arab Army marches towards Raqqa". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  4. ^ "Hassan Ridha on Twitter". twitter.com. 
  5. ^ a b c "High-ranking Syria army officer killed fighting ISIS". Now. 23 June 2016. 
  6. ^ "Syrian Air Force kills top ISIS emir in west Raqqa". Al-Masdar News. 15 June 2016. 
  7. ^ Fadel, Leith (31 May 2016). "Desert Hawks head to west Raqqa". almasdarnews.com. 
  8. ^ "Hassan Ridha on Twitter". twitter.com. 
  9. ^ a b Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (3 September 2016). "Quwat Dir' Al-Amn Al-Askari: A Latakia Military Intelligence Militia". Syria Comment. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  10. ^ Leith Fadel (8 June 2016). "Syrian Army reaches key crossroad in Raqqa". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "Syrian Army joins the race to Raqqa as several thousand soldiers pour into east Hama". Al-Masdar News. 31 May 2016. 
  12. ^ Tomson, Chris (16 June 2016). "ISIS launches major counter-offensive against the Syrian Army in western Raqqa – map". 
  13. ^ a b Fadel, Leith (22 June 2016). "Disastrous turn of events force the Syrian Army to withdraw from west Raqqa". Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c "After 15 days, The IS forces regime forces to pull back from al-Raqqa province". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  15. ^ "Aerial bombardment kills about 20 in al-Tabaqa". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  16. ^ Adra, Zen (2 June 2016). "Breaking: SAA begins military operation to recapture ISIS-held Raqqa + [Photos]". almasdarnews.com. 
  17. ^ "SAA reporter on Twitter". twitter.com. 
  18. ^ "Syrian army opens new front as Islamic State's many foes attack". 3 June 2016. Retrieved 4 June 2016 – via Reuters. 
  19. ^ "Syria: Kurdish SDF militia battling Isis near the Turkish border". Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  20. ^ "Hassan Ridha on Twitter". Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  21. ^ Fadel, Leith (3 June 2016). "Syrian Army liberates first village in west Raqqa, 35 km to Tabaqa". Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  22. ^ "Syria army pushes into IS bastion province of Raqa". Retrieved 4 June 2016. 
  23. ^ Fadel, Leith (4 June 2016). "Syrian Army continues Raqqa offensive amid dust storm: video". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  24. ^ a b Fadel, Leith (5 June 2016). "Syrian Army, Desert Hawks liberate Abu Allaj village in west Raqqa - Map update". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  25. ^ Fadel, Leith (5 June 2016). "Syrian Army liberates new hilltop en route to Raqqa". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  26. ^ Fadel, Leith (6 June 2016). "Syrian Army, Desert Hawks liberates new point in west Raqqa". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  27. ^ "Army presses advance on jihadists at Syria's biggest dam - Region - World - Ahram Online". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  28. ^ Tomson, Chris (6 June 2016). "Another ISIS village captured as the Syrian Arab Army marches towards Raqqa". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  29. ^ "Syrian troops capture more ground in push on IS stronghold". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  30. ^ "Farsnews". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  31. ^ "ISIS hits back against Syrian army after advance". Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  32. ^ "Syrian army, U.S.-backed forces advance separately against Islamic State". 7 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016 – via Reuters. 
  33. ^ Editor3. "صقور الصحراء وقوات النظام يسيطران على مفرق الطبقة -الرصافة – أثريا". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  34. ^ Fadel, Leith (8 June 2016). "Syrian Army reaches key crossroad in Raqqa". 
  35. ^ Tomson, Chris (10 June 2016). "Syrian Army just 20 kilometers from Tabqa Airbase - Raqqa map update". 
  36. ^ "About 100 fighters killed during clashes in al-Raqqa countryside". 
  37. ^ "Syrian govt forces seize strategic crossroads in Raqqa province: army, activists". 
  38. ^ "Airstrikes pound ISIS at Tabqa Airbase ahead of planned Syrian Army offensive". 10 June 2016. 
  39. ^ "Syrian Army attacked by teenage ISIS suicide bombers in west Raqqa, 13 year old captured". 11 June 2016. 
  40. ^ a b "Counterattack by infiltrates of the "caliphate cubs" on the southern countryside al-Tabaqa and the regime forces are waiting for reinforcement". 
  41. ^ Fadel, Leith (12 June 2016). "Syrian Army 6 km away from strategic Rusafeh District in southern Raqqa". Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  42. ^ Tomson, Chris (13 June 2016). "ISIS fails in major night offensive on Syrian Army supply road to Western Raqqa". Retrieved 13 June 2016. 
  43. ^ a b "Syria regime surges towards IS-held Tabqa: monitor". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  44. ^ Fadel, Leith (19 June 2016). "Syrian Army resumes west Raqqa offensive". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  45. ^ "Syrian forces advance on IS-held air base". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  46. ^ Fadel, Leith (19 June 2016). "ISIS reverses Syrian Army gains near Tabaqa Airport". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  47. ^ Fadel, Leith (20 June 2016). "Syrian Army launches new assault to liberate Thawrah Oil Fields in west Raqqa". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  48. ^ "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  49. ^ "Syrian army retakes gas field in Raqqa - ARA News". 21 June 2016. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  50. ^ "ISIS recaptures Sfaiyeh oil fields in West Raqqa". Al Masdar news. 20 June 2016. 
  51. ^ "IS expels Syria regime forces from Raqqa province, monitor says". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  52. ^ Fadel, Leith (21 June 2016). "ISIS captures Khirbat Zeidan in west Raqqa". Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  53. ^ Fadel, Leith (22 June 2016). "Syrian Armed Forces withdraw from final points in west Raqqa: map". Retrieved 24 June 2016. 

Coordinates: 35°38′40″N 38°26′02″E / 35.6445°N 38.4339°E / 35.6445; 38.4339

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