Govern­ment forces con­sol­i­date gains

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

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.

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