2016 al-Bukamal offensive

Al-Bukamal offensive (2016)
Part of the Syrian Civil War and
the Military intervention against ISIL
Date28–29 June 2016
(1 day)
LocationAl-Bukamal District, Deir-Ez-Zor Governorate, Syria

ISIL victory[1][2][3][4]

  • The NSA withdraws from all positions it had captured back to its base at Tanf[4][5]

Syrian opposition New Syrian Army[6]

  • Pro-NSA Arab clans[6]

Syrian opposition Lions of the East Army[7]
Syrian opposition Ahmad al-Abdo Martyrs Forces[6]
Supported by:


 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Commanders and leaders

Syrian opposition Khazal al-Sarhan
(New Syrian Army commander)

Syrian opposition Mozahem al-Saloum (NSA spokesman)[7]
Syrian opposition 125–200 NSA fighters[2][9] Unknown
Casualties and losses
40 killed, 15 captured (ISIL claim)[2]
25+ killed or captured (SOHR claim)[2]
5–40+ killed (NSA claim)[5][10]
20 killed (NSA claim)[2]

The 2016 al-Bukamal offensive, also known as Operation Day of Wrath, was launched on the town of al-Bukamal on the Syrian–Iraqi border led by the US-backed New Syrian Army (NSA).[11]

The offensive

On 28 June 2016, the New Syrian Army rebels launched the offensive from al-Tanf and captured the village of al-Sukkariya (north of al-Bukamal), the nearby Hamdan Military Airfield, the Ayshat al-Khayri Hospital (in northern al-Bukamal) and several positions in the desert between the Tanf border crossing and al-Bukamal. NSA troops were airlifted to the area by three Coalition helicopters and the advance was aided by FSA covert supporters inside the city.[6] At the same time as the operation started, it was reported that Iraqi Federal Police forces were preparing to simultaneously attack the town of al-Qa'im, on the Iraqi side of the border.[11] However, Iraqi Sunni tribesmen were the ones in fact involved in the operation, and acted ”precipitously and insufficiently in their role”, alerting ISIL of the offensive.[9] ISIL then proceeded to cut power and communications in al-Bukamal, followed by digging trenches around the city.[12]

On the next day, US air cover was withdrawn in the middle of the battle to attack to take part in the Battle of Fallujah.[5] Due to this, ISIL recaptured the airbase, pushed the rebels back from the outskirts of al-Bukamal, and attacked the supply lines of the NSA through the empty desert. ISIL fighters encircled the rebels in a surprise ambush. They reportedly inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels and weapons were seized by the jihadists. The rebels initially retreated to the outlying desert areas,[13][14] before fully pulling back to their base at the Tanf border crossing, 200 miles away.[4][5]

The offensive was described by some as a ”crippling defeat” and a ”Bay-of-Pigs-style fiasco” for the rebels,[1][9] while the SOHR director stated after the defeat that the whole operation ”was more a media show than anything else”.[2] The U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated, in regards to the pulling back of the air support for the rebels, ”We missed an opportunity”.[15]


In an ISIL propaganda video, the NSA suffered 2 known deaths on the battlefield along with 3 fighters from the Ahmad al-Abdo Martyr group who were killed in an ISIL ambush while retreating from al-Bukamal. ISIL, however, claims 40 NSA deaths and 15 captured along with the seizure of a large amount of weaponry consisting of mostly heavy machine guns, mortars, and assault rifles. In addition, ISIL suffered 20 deaths according to the NSA in a combination of a total of 13 Coalition air-strikes and their ground offensive operation. In one instance, a pro-NSA sleeper cell group in al-Bukamal detonated a car bomb that killed 3 ISIL fighters.[16]


  1. 1 2 "US Backed New Syrian Army Suffers Crippling Defeat".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Times, Los Angeles. "U.S.-backed rebels launched their first attack against Islamic State. They lost.".
  3. "ISIS repels advance by U.S.-backed Syria rebels near Iraq border".
  4. 1 2 3 "Islamic State routs Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels in fresh setback for U.S. strategy".
  5. 1 2 3 4 "U.S. jets abandoned Syrian rebels in the desert. Then they lost a battle to ISIS.".
  6. 1 2 3 4 "ISIS on alert as rebels advance near Syria-Iraq border". Now News. 29 June 2016.
  7. 1 2 "US-Backed Syrian Rebels Move Toward IS-Held Town Near Iraq". Associated Press. 28 June 2016.
  8. "CIA Funded and SOF Trained: The New Syrian Army Hits the Ground". Sofrep. 11 September 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 Weiss, Michael (1 July 2016). "They Rescued This Town from ISIS, Then Lost It".
  10. Syria: IS retakes Hamdan airport base, rebels flee to al-Tanf
  11. 1 2 Leith Fadel. "US begins new operation to drive ISIS away from Iraq-Syria border". almasdarnews.com. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  12. "Syria rebels battle IS at Iraqi border, aim to cut 'caliphate' in two". Reuters. 29 June 2016.
  13. "Islamic State forces Syria rebels to retreat from border area". Reuters. 29 June 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  14. Adra, Zen (29 June 2016). "In video: ISIS overruns US-backed fighters in Eastern Syria".
  15. "Pentagon chief on pulling air support for U.S.-backed rebels: 'We missed an opportunity'".
  16. "The Battle of al-Bukamal: Here's What Really Happened - bellingcat". 2016-07-31. Retrieved 2016-08-19.

Coordinates: 34°26′47″N 40°55′16″E / 34.4463°N 40.9210°E / 34.4463; 40.9210

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