Aid convoy reaches Syria's Deir al-Zor after three-year siege
BEIRUT - ReutersAn aid convoy arrived at Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria on Sept. 7, bringing supplies to soldiers and civilians days after the Syrian army broke a three-year Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) siege, Syrian state media reported.
The Syrian army and its allies reached Deir al-Zor on Sept. 5 in a sudden advance following months of steady progress east across the desert. The army on Sept. 7 advanced against militants in a pocket they still hold further west, pro-Damascus media reported.
State TV broadcast footage of scores of residents cheering with relief in Deir al-Zor as the convoy arrived.
The United Nations estimated that 93,000 civilians living under ISIL siege in Deir al-Zor had been in "extremely difficult" conditions, being supplied only by air drops.
The 40 trucks that reached the area carried basic needs such as fuel, food and medical supplies to civilians, and included two mobile clinics, state news agency SANA reported.
The army also holds another besieged enclave at the city's airbase, separated from its advancing forces by hundreds of metres of ISIL-held ground.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sept. 7 that the army had not yet connected with that enclave, and was working on expanding its corridor from the west.
ISIL mortar fire on neighbourhoods still surrounded near the air base killed at least seven civilians and wounded dozens more on Sept. 7, the British-based monitoring group said.
Also on the same day, the army advanced against ISIL militants in countryside east of the city of Hama, a media unit run by Damascus ally Hezbollah reported.
The advance, which saw forces recapture two villages there, is part of efforts to drive the militants out of an isolated pocket of territory they control east of Hama and Homs.
Separately, the U.S. special envoy to the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, Brett McGurk, said on Sept. 6 that a convoy of ISIL militants and families from the Syria-Lebanon border was still in open desert.
The coalition is using airstrikes to block the convoy from reaching ISIL-held territory in eastern Syria, to which the Syrian army and its ally Hezbollah were escorting it as part of a truce following fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border.
ISIL is fighting separate offensives by both the Syrian army and its allies in eastern and central Syria, as well as the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqa.