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    Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

    Syrian regime sweeps across ISIS-held territory

    | 2017-07-17 21:15:14
    Syrian regime sweeps across ISIS-held territory
    TOPSHOT - Smoke billows following an airstrike on the western frontline of Raqa on July 15, 2017, during an offensive by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighter

    Syrian government forces have swept across territory south of the Daesh (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa, capturing a string of villages and oilfields from the militants, state media said Monday.

    The landscape south of Raqqa city strategically borders several provinces: Aleppo to the west, Homs to the south and Deir Ezzor - much of which is still held by Daesh - to the east.

    On Monday, state news agency SANA said government loyalists had scored significant gains against Daesh in the area.

    "Over the past two days, army units recaptured a number of villages and oilfields in western parts of Deir Ezzor province and southern parts of Raqqa," the agency said.

    It said "dozens" of Daesh vehicles had been destroyed and that a number of militants, including foreigners, had been killed.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday the government advance was backed by heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes.

    "Regime forces have captured between 1,500 and 1,800 square kilometers in Raqqa province over the past 48 hours," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

    He added that troops were approaching the strategic region of Jabal al-Bishri, a mountain chain straddling parts of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Homs provinces.

    "If the regime captures it, it can take control of all those areas," Abdel Rahman said.

    Since 2014, Raqqa city has served as the de facto capital of Deash territory in Syria, and U.S.-backed fighters are currently battling jihadists inside the city.

    But rival Syrian government troops have also chipped away at IS-held territory in the broader province.

    Last month, regime forces targeted the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance west of Raqqa. The Pentagon downed a Syrian jet in retaliation.

    More than 330,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

    Keywords:  Syria
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