Syrian army gains in Islamic State's last central Syria bastion


Backed by Hezbollah and Russian air power, army takes village of Uqairabat in push to regain centre of country from IS

Syrian government forces fire artillery against the Islamic State group on 16 May 2017 in the town of Maskana in the eastern part of Aleppo province (AFP)
Reuters's picture
Last update: 
Saturday 2 September 2017 11:15 UTC

The Syrian army and its allies were fighting on Saturday in Islamic State group's last pocket in central Syria after taking the heavily defended village of Uqairabat on Friday, a war monitor reported.

The enclave lies close to the main road running between the cities of Homs and Aleppo near the town of al-Salamiya and has been the site of intense fighting for months. Evicting militants from the area is viewed as necessary to improve security on the road.

Late on Friday, a military media unit run by Hezbollah said the army had captured Uqairabat, which it described as Islamic State's stronghold in that region.

The war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the army and its allies had also taken other villages in the area, aided by Russian helicopters, and reported that intense fighting continued.

The Syrian army, aided by Russian airstrikes and Iran-backed Shia militias including Lebanon's Hezbollah, has advanced deep into eastern Syria this year against Islamic State.

It is pushing to relieve its besieged enclave in the city of Deir Ezzor, one of the cities on the Euphrates to which Islamic State has fallen back after losses in both Syria and Iraq, but has left the pocket in central Syria in its rear.

On Friday morning, IS executed six people on charges of "spying for the international crusaders," in Bukamal, a city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, according to the observatory.

The observatory said it was the second time the organisation has carried out public executions on the day of Eid al-Adha, which according to Islamic tradition commemorates Abraham's slaying of a goat.