05/28/2018, 19.03
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IS attack kills 26 Syrian soldiers and nine Russian militiamen in Deir Ezzor

The incident took place in a desert area in eastern Syria. For experts it is a proof that the Islamic State is still a threat. The soldiers of the "Caliphate" may be down, but they are not out; they just moved. Iraqi planes crossed into Syria to hit jihadi targets. The US opposes any Syrian military operations in Daraa.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) – At least 26 Syrian and nine Russian soldiers were killed in an attack by Islamic State (IS) fighters in a desert area in eastern Syria, where pockets of jihadi resistance persist.

The incident took place in Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor province, last Wednesday, but was confirmed only yesterday by official sources in Moscow and Damascus. Russia and Syria are allies in the Syrian civil war.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported that "several mobile terrorist groups attacked Syrian government artillery at night." The Ministry said the fighting lasted around an hour and left 43 militants dead.

UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights confirmed that Russians also died in the fighting.

For some analysts and experts, last week's attack shows that IS still a functioning military force and still poses a threat both in Syria and in neighbouring Iraq.

After it was expelled from Raqqa, which it held for many years, and from Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, the IS repositioned itself in other areas of the country, especially in the Euphrates valley and Deir Ezzor province from where the latest attack came.

This is why, according to some observers, the men of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are still a threat. After simply moving, they remain an unknown factor for the future of Syria and the region.

In fact, the jihadi threat is still present, which is why Iraq is still pressing on the fight. On Thursday, Iraqi planned crossed into Syria for the third time in a month to hit IS targets. The target was Hajin (Deir Ezzor), where at least 65 senior IS leaders live.

Meanwhile, a Syria and the United States might be moving towards confrontation. After "liberating" the capital and the suburbs, the government army is moving towards Daraa, in the south-east, not far from the border with Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.

In recent days, Syrian planes have dropped leaflets in the area, warning people of an upcoming military action against jihadi targets.

This has greatly irritated the United States, which is threatening severe retaliation in the case of military operations in the area.

In Washington, sources are saying that such a move would violate the local ceasefire and de-escalation, following a long negotiation with Russia and president Vladimir Putin. The White House wants to shield Israel from possible spillover.

Damascus and its allies control about 30 per cent of Daraa. The remaining 70 is in the hands of anti-Assad rebel factions and jihadist groups, including small numbers of IS fighters.

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