MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In the past two weeks Syrian forces have inflicted a crushing defeat on the Islamic State terrorist group (also known as IS, ISIL or Daesh) in the eastern and central parts of the country, winning the battle near Deir ez-Zor, exceeding the significance and scale of all previous victories, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff Col. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy said on Wednesday.
Deir ez-Zor, the biggest city in the east of Syria near the Euphrates river, and a military airport located 1.2 miles away from the city, have been under the terrorists' siege for over three years. Just a few months ago, Daesh militants managed to disrupt communications between army soldiers in the city and the airbase. Foodstuffs and ammunition have been airlifted into the city. In addition, helicopters from the city of Qamishli have been evacuating those wounded and delivering essential supplies to the city's beleaguered population.
On Tuesday, Syrian media reported that a unit of government troops and allied forces broke the Daesh siege from the southwest direction and met with the defenders of Deir ez-Zor.
Damascus' efforts were supported by Moscow. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the Russian Aerospace Forces and Navy contributed to the Syrian troops' success. In a statement, the ministry said the Russian strikes destroyed a number of fortified positions with an underground tunnels network, artillery encampments and ammunition depots.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu informed Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Syrian army's successful operation to lift the three-years-long blockade of Deir ez-Zor.
"President Putin sent a telegram to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic Assad, in which he highly praised this strategic victory and congratulated the Syrian president on this important step towards the liberation of the territory of Syria from terrorism," Peskov said.
"Over the past two weeks, the Syrian government troops, with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, have made serious progress and inflicted a crushing defeat on ISIL groups in the east and central part of Syria," Rudskoy, said.
He noted that the Syrian Armed Forces cleared nearly 3,000 square miles of territory from terrorists, with militants dislodged from 59 settlements.
"We have won a battle against terrorist groups in the area of the city of Deir ez-Zor, exceeding in its significance and scale all previous victories. The Syrian people have been waiting for this more than three years," Rudskoy said.
Russian Armed Forces' group commander in Syria Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin said that in the course of the offensive of Gen. Suhel's detachments and the defenders of Deir ez-Zor, under the command of Gen. Zahralddeen from within the encirclement, the militants' defense had been breached in a three-kilometer (1.9 miles) wide area. He added that at night, the corridor had been widened twofold.
A source told Sputnik that the Syrian army and allies broke the IS siege from the southwest, meeting with the defenders near the barracks of 137th Syrian army mechanized brigade on the western outskirts of the city.
Surovikin also noted that the average speed the Syrian army's offensive in Deir ez-Zor area reached 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) per day, adding that "the main forces of IS militants, relocated from Mosul, Raqqa and other regions, have been caught in a vise, the operation to liquidate the last of the terrorist stronghold in Syria is close to completion."
He added that the pro-government forces were advancing on the city from the south along the Euphrates River.
Surovikin noted that the militants used about 50 vehicles with explosives during the clashes in Syria's Deir ez-Zor area, and 28 of them were destroyed by government troops.
According to the commander, despite the violent clashes, all the counterattacks carried out by the militants had been repelled.
"As a result of massive aviation and artillery support, the IS terrorists faced significant losses," Surovikin stressed.
According to the data of the Russian Defense Ministry released on Wednesday, during the liberation of Deir ez-Zor Syrian government forces captured a large fortified position held by Daesh terrorists and found evidence that its defenders originated from Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
The statement said that 12 armored vehicles, including four tanks, six artillery and mortar firing positions, a command post and a communication center, as well as three ammo depots were destroyed, and more than 200 terrorists were killed during the Deir ez-Zor operation.
RUSSIAN HUMANITARIAN AID
According to the Russian Defense Ministry's statement, the Russian center for reconciliation in Syria is urgently shipping food products and essentials to the residents of Deir ez-Zor, who have been under the siege for three years.
It was noted that Daesh militants had destroyed almost the entire infrastructure of the city. All electric substations and water facilities have been blown up, while hospitals, schools and public service facilities have been destroyed. The water supply system is not functioning, all factories, residential houses, industrial and administrative facilities are shut down. The militants have mined city squares, schools and kindergartens during the retreat.
Russia's center for reconciliation has sent humanitarian aid, which included water treatment plants, portable diesel generators, bottled drinking water, food products and medication. The medics will soon arrive to the city to provide necessary medical assistance to local residents.
At the moment, the center for reconciliation is assessing the volume of necessary humanitarian assistance, as well as the condition of sensitive facilities in the city. Furthermore, the Russian troops have provided additional equipment to the Syrian military engineering units for detecting explosives and mine-clearing.