Government forces consolidate gains
Government troops and their allies intensified an offensive Friday against Islamic State militants in central Syria, trying to consolidate their control of the area.
The Syrian troops and Russian military police patrolled the dusty and desolate streets of Okeirbat, which was recaptured from the extremists Sept. 2.
A militant counteroffensive was crushed Thursday amid intense Russian airstrikes. Distant thuds of artillery were heard Friday, indicating continued fighting.
The militants controlled Okeirbat since 2014. Russian military officials showed journalists a bombed-out warehouse that had been used by the extremists to repair and fortify tanks in the once-thriving town of 10,000 people, the largest held by the terrorist group in Hama province.
The fight for Okeirbat, which is on a strategic route linking western Syria to Islamic State strongholds in the east, reflects the group’s desperation to retain its presence in central part of the country.