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Syrian forces push IS out of Deir Ezzor city, says government

Damascus says it is in full control of Deir Ezzor, and that the city is 'completely liberated from terrorism'
Syrian army soldiers stand near checkpoint in Deir Ezzor recently (Reuters)

The Syrian army and its allies have taken full control of Deir Ezzor city from the Islamic State (IS) group, the largest and most important city in eastern Syria, state television said on Friday.

"The city is completely liberated from terrorism," a state television report said.

A military source told the Reuters news agency: "The armed forces, in cooperation with allied forces, liberated the city of Deir al-Zor completely from the clutches of the Daesh terrorist organisation."

The Syrian army launched its attack against IS there in September, backed by Russian air strikes and fighting alongside Iran-backed militias and Hezbollah.

The militant group had held most of the city since 2014, except for one large pocket where Syrian army troops and 93,000 civilians were under siege for three years.

The provincial capital is located on the western side of the Euphrates River. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, launched their own attack on IS in the province in September, advancing along the east side of the river.

The city's strategic significance for IS stemmed from its location near the Iraqi border, where the group also controlled territory, as well as its importance as the oil-producing province's capital.

Recapturing the eastern province's capital underscores President Bashar al-Assad's re-established control over the eastern part of Syria.

As the army has pushed east in recent months, oil and gas fields have once more fallen to the government, as well as to the SDF.

IS still controls parts of Deir Ezzor province, its territory extending across the border to neighbouring Iraq, where Iraqi forces are waging a separate offensive against the militant group.

The militant group also controls a small pocket in Hama province in western Syria, and a besieged enclave south of Damascus where it is fighting rebel factions.

The Syrian army is also advancing on Abu Kamal city in Deir Ezzor province, located on the Iraqi-Syrian border. Russian bombers struck IS targets in the border town on Thursday, RIA news agency reported.