Com­man­dos kill 25 mil­i­tants in cen­tral Syria: Mon­i­tor

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A com­mando op­er­a­tion backed by Rus­sian war­planes and he­li­copters has killed 25 mem­bers of the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group in cen­tral Syria, a mon­i­tor said yes­ter­day. Sup­ported by regime ally Rus­sia, Syria’s army has waged a months-long of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture the vast desert re­gion that stretches from the coun­try’s cen­tre to the Iraqi and Jor­da­nian bor­ders.

On Satur­day, “25 IS mem­bers were killed and oth­ers wounded in a com­mando op­er­a­tion by Syr­ian regime forces with air sup­port from Rus­sian war­planes and he­li­copters” in the north­east of Homs prov­ince, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights mon­i­tor­ing group said. Six mem­bers of the regime forces were also killed, it said. A mil­i­tary source said the op­er­a­tion oc­curred “20 kilo­me­tres in­side Daesh (IS) ter­ror­ist lines”.

The raid al­lowed regime forces to seize con­trol of three vil­lages in the area, of­fi­cial news agency SANA re­ported the source as say­ing. The army has cap­tured swathes of ter­ri­tory from the ji­hadists in the prov­ince. Ac­cord­ing to the Ob­ser­va­tory, IS now con­trols just dozens of vil­lages in the east of Homs. The Syr­ian “Badiya” is a large stretch of desert that ex­tends over around 90,000 square kilo­me­ters of ter­ri­tory.

Since 2015, much of the Badiya has been held by IS, but Syria’s army has been chip­ping away at it since May. Last week, the Ob­ser­va­tory said regime forces had ousted IS from Al-Sukhna, the last ji­hadist-held town in Homs prov­ince. Syria’s army and Rus­sia this week­end con­firmed its full re­cap­ture. “The lib­er­a­tion of Al-Sukhna from IS ter­ror­ists opens up pos­si­bil­i­ties for Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces to launch an as­sault and free the city of Deir Ez­zor,” a Rus­sian army state­ment said.

The ji­hadists hold the ma­jor­ity of the vast desert prov­ince of Deir Ez­zor in­clud­ing most of its provin­cial cap­i­tal. The re­cap­ture of Deir Ez­zor “would largely — if not com­pletely — mark the end of the fight against IS,” Rus­sia’s De­fence Min­is­ter Sergei Shoigu on Sun­day told the Rus­sia 24 tele­vi­sion chan­nel. Regime forces have more than dou­bled the ter­ri­tory they con­trol in Syria over the past two months, he said. Forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Bashar Al-As­sad are also fight­ing the ji­hadists in the south of neigh­bor­ing Raqa prov­ince.

DA­M­AS­CUS: This frame grab from video pro­vided yes­ter­day by the Ghouta Me­dia Cen­ter, a Syr­ian ac­tivist me­dia group, shows smoke and de­bris ris­ing after a Syr­ian gov­ern­ment groundto-groundrocket strikes the op­po­si­tion-held town of Ain Terma. — AP

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