“BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has kicked off the third phase of Operation Big Dawn, tonight, a source told Al-Masdar News.
According to the Syrian military, the army is going to push from the Hamimah area of southeast Homs towards the border-city of Albukamal in the Deir Ezzor Governorate.
While the Syrian Army has not yet stormed the T-2 Pumping Station, they have begun firing a barrage of missiles and artillery shells towards the Islamic State’s positions.
In the coming hours, the Russian Air Force will begin pounding the T-2 Pumping Station, while the Syrian Army’s infantry storms the Islamic State’s last positions in the Hamimah area.” (Published on 16/09/2017 by Al Masdar News)
I think the next goal of this offensive is to take the entire Euphrates valley from Deir Ezzor to Al Bukamal. The drive towards the T2 pumping station is only one step in this offensive. SAA and allied forces have linked with Iraqi forces along the border and are coordinating their dual pushes toward Al Bukamal and Al Qaim. IS reactions to these moves now seem to be limited to spoiling raids. A recent IS “counteroffensive” towards Hamimah ended in failure with half their vehicles destroyed by Russian and Syrian airstrikes. The IS is sucking bilge water.
At Deir Ezzor, the SAA has secured the area around the airport. The last pocket of IS jihadis are now surrounded with their backs to the Euphrates. Their only choices are to swim for it or wait for the loving embrace of Issam Zahreddine’s mighty arms. Two large transport planes have already landed with supplies for SAA forces. More are sure to come.
Saker Island has been captured clearing the way for an SAA river crossing. A Russia24 video shows two pontoon sections being launched in the river and possibly being used to ferry R+6 troops and technicals across the river. The video also shows an old PTS-2 amphibious cargo carrier carrying troops. My guess is that this was part of the operation to secure Saker Island rather than the crossing of the Euphrates.
However, I do see the establishment of a functioning pontoon bridge and ferry service to move a large force to the east bank of the Euphrates taking place soon. I envision a major R+6 advance south on both sides of the Euphrates towards Al Mayadin rather than an R+6 thrust due east to cut off and further YPG/SDF southerly advance. There are reports of the ISIS Hunters already sending a force across the river. Eyes on the prize, boys, eyes on the prize.