IS victories and defeats in Syria

Beirut: Syria’s army on Monday said it had routed Islamic State group jihadists from the capital Damascus and its outskirts, in a new victory for the regime in the seven-year war.

Targeted in Syria by regime forces and a US-led Kurdish-Arab coalition, IS now holds less than three percent of territory in Syria.

Below are key dates since the emergence of the jihadists after a sweeping offensive across swathes of Syria, and neighbouring Iraq, their subsequent defeats.

– Raqa ‘capital’ of IS –
On January 14, 2014 jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seize the northern city of Raqa, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of the Turkish border and about halfway between Syria’s second city Aleppo and the Iraqi frontier.

Its location at the intersection of several major roads and the Euphrates River makes it a strategic prize.

In June, ISIL proclaims a “caliphate” led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi across territory the group seized in Syria and Iraq and rebrands itself Islamic State.

The group overruns Raqa province in August.

A US-led military coalition launches its first strikes on Raqa in September, hitting IS targets.

In October 2017, the US-backed Arab-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announces the full recapture of Raqa after more than four months of fierce fighting.

The battle killed at least 3,250 people, including 1,130 civilians, and displaced tens of thousands of residents, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

– Kobane: Symbol of anti-IS fight –
The Kurdish town in northern Syria became a symbol of the fight against IS and where they faced their first defeat.

Backed by US-led air strikes, Kurdish forces drive the jihadists out of the town in January 2015 after more than four months of fighting.

– Manbij –
On August 6, 2016, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes recaptures Manbij following a two-month battle.

IS had seized the town — in Aleppo province and some 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Turkish border — in 2014 and used it as a hub for moving jihadists to and from Europe. It also controlled a key IS supply route.

– Jarabulus, Dabiq, Al-Bab –
Turkish troops and Syrian rebels sweep almost unopposed into the border town on August 24, 2016, during “Operation Euphrates Shield”, which also targets Kurdish militia.

In October, Syrian rebels backed by Turkish warplanes and artillery capture Dabiq.

Under IS control since August 2014, Dabiq has ideological significance because of a prophecy that Christian and Muslim forces will battle there at the end of times.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels say in February 2017 that they have taken full control of the northern town, the IS last bastion in Aleppo province, after three months of deadly fighting.

– Palmyra –
Syrian troops backed by Russian jets recapture the ancient desert town of Palmyra from IS in March 2017.

The oasis city had traded hands several times during the war and become a symbol of IS’s destruction of priceless cultural heritage in areas under its control.

Before IS first entered the city in 2015, Palmyra boasted temples and tombs that were among the best preserved classical monuments in the Middle East.

– Deir Ezzor Province –
In October 2017, regime forces retake Mayadeen in the oil-rich eastern province.

In November, Syria’s army backed by Russian and Iranian forces expel IS from Deir Ezzor city and Albu Kamal, the last town in Syria still held by IS on the Iraqi border.

In early May the SDF say they are launching the final stage of their battle to expel IS from desert holdouts in the province.

– Yarmuk –
On Monday, Syria’s army says it is in complete control of Damascus and its outskirts for the first time since 2012, after ousting IS jihadists from the capital’s south and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk.

Agence France-Presse