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Syria clashes kill 30 near key military airport

IS on offensive in Homs province trying to seize Tayfur base as Russian and government bomb the area
Islamic State has sought to cut of government’s access route to Tayfur airport, which is located between cities of Palmyra and Homs (AFP)

Fierce clashes near a key military airport in central Syria on Thursday left at least 18 militants and a dozen pro-government fighters dead, a monitoring group said. 

The Islamic State (IS) group has sought for weeks to advance near the Tayfur military airport in Homs province. 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, intense fighting and air strikes by Syrian and allied Russian warplanes rocked the area on Thursday. 

"Twelve regime fighters were killed, including seven in a suicide blast," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that 18 IS militants were killed. 

IS has sought to cut off the government’s access route to Tayfur airport, which is located between the cities of Palmyra and Homs.

The militants recaptured Palmyra in central Syria on 11 December, just eight months after the army, backed by Russia, had driven them out.

Since then clashes have rattled the region and on Monday attacks by IS on Tayfur killed at least 20 pro-government fighters, according to the monitor.

Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its recapture by IS gave the militants a propaganda boost, as they face assaults on two of their key strongholds: Raqqa in Syria and Iraq's second city Mosul.

40 percent of Syria's children in Turkey not in school

Meanwhile, earlier this week, UNICEF said that almost 40 percent of Syria’s refugee children in Turkey are not in school.

The UN agency said in a statement that about 380,000 children have gone without schooling, despite a 50 percent increase in enrolment.

“For the first time since the start of the Syrian crisis, there are more Syrian children in Turkey attending class than there are out of school,” said UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth, speaking after a visit to UNICEF programmes in southern Turkey.

“Turkey should be commended for this huge achievement. But unless more resources are provided, there is still a very real risk of a ‘lost generation’ of Syrian children, deprived of the skills they will one day need to rebuild their country.”

Turkey hosts more than a million child refugees, the most in the world.

“Across the region, a total of 2.7 million Syrian children are not in school – the bulk of them inside the war-torn country itself where millions of children remain in danger as the conflict nears the six-year mark.

About 300,000 children are trapped in 15 areas that are under siege across Syria, and an additional two million are in areas that are cut off from essential humanitarian aid as a result of fighting and restrictions to access. This includes 700,000 children in areas under IS control, the UNICEF statement said.

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