US aircraft are closely watching an ISIS convoy that has been stranded in the Syrian desert for more than a week.
Seventeen buses carrying ISIS fighters, along with their families, have been stuck in the Deir al-Zour province after a negotiated deal with Lebanese Hezbollah let them leave a region in the country’s west. However, the US-led coalition was not a party to the deal and is prohibiting safe passage of experienced ISIS fighters to the Iraq border, coalition spokesman US Army Col. Ryan Dillon said during a Thursday briefing.
“We will not allow this armed terrorist convoy to link up with fellow ISIS fighters in the Euphrates River Valley,” Dillon said.
The US-led coalition said Thursday that it is allowing food and water deliveries to the stranded buses and not striking the convoy itself, but US and coalition aircraft have cratered the roads around the buses and destroyed bridges. The coalition also has hit ISIS fighters when they left the convoy and were a safe distance away from the buses carrying noncombatants, Dillon said.
Strikes have killed 85 fighters, including those in the convoy who tried to leave and fighters who tried to link up with the convoy.
Six buses have been able to leave the convoy, with the coalition deciding to not follow them as they returned to Syrian government-controlled territory. Eleven buses remain, with more than 300 ISIS fighters and other noncombatants.
US intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft are keeping a constant eye on the convoy and watching what the ISIS fighters are doing. On Tuesday, ISIS fighters began to fight among themselves—“brawling in the desert” as food and water arrived from “Syrian-held territory,” Dillon said.
This shows “frustration by the fighters being stuck in the middle of this desert,” he said.