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By Andrew Illingworth

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:40 P.M.) – Today the ISIS-linked Amaq news agency released footage of an Islamic State anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) team hitting, at extreme range, a Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) Mi-8 (or Mi-17) transport helicopter landing near the al-Assad Hospital in the western sector of the city of Deir Ezzor.

Although besieged pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor remain in control of key zones which protect the western and southern approaches to the government-held sections of the city – namely the 137th Brigade Base and Deir Ezzor Military Airport – from ISIS attacks, the overall strategic situation for pro-government forces remains exceptionally uncomfortable. The indisputable territorial advantage held by ISIS over the Deir Ezzor battlespace (i.e. the terrorist group’s total surrounding of pro-government forces) means that pro-government forces remain very vulnerable to such attacks as shown in the video below.

In mid-January of this year, ISIS launched a massive offensive against pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor, managing to split the besieged pocket into two, isolating the military airport from the government-held sections of the city and the 137th Brigade Base to a distance of several kilometres. Further erosion of the Deir Ezzor bastion took place again in June when ISIS captured key points south of the 137th Brigade Base, including the Panorama Driving School and the SyriaTel hill; the capture of the latter area in particular gave ISIS fire control over the 137th Brigade Base helicopter landing pads, compelling pro-government forces to build a new landing zone out of the jihadist militant group’s line-of-sight. Pro-government forces are yet to reverse any of the major gains made by ISIS since the beginning of 2017.