Syrian army takes last IS-held town in Homs

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 06 Aug 2017, 21:43:46
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Syrian army takes last IS-held town in Homs

Turkey warns new military moves on border imminent
HOMS, Aug 06 (Agencies): Syria's army seized the last Islamic State group stronghold in the country's Homs province on Saturday, clearing their path to attack the jihadists in the country's east, a monitor said.

Al-Sukhna, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of the famed ancient city of Palmyra, is the last town on the road to the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where a government garrison has held out under IS siege since early 2015.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said government forces had captured the town after heavy army artillery fire and air strikes by government ally Russia.

There was no official confirmation of the capture from Syria's government.

State news agency SANA said the army had surrounded the town from three sides.

Since May, Syria's army has been conducting a broad military campaign with Russian support to recapture the vast desert that separates the capital Damascus from Deir Ezzor and other towns along the Euphrates Valley.

Already defeated in its Iraqi bastion of Mosul, IS is facing multiple assaults in Syria.

The US-backed Syrian Defence Forces now control more than half of its most important remaining stronghold Raqa.

Meanwhile, Turkey's president reiterated Saturday that new cross-border operations into Syria are in the works as the country boosts its military presence along the border against threats from Kurdish militants in war-torn Syria.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey is determined to launch "new moves" akin to its foray into northern Syria last August. "It's clear that the situation in Syria goes beyond a war on a terror organization," Erdogan said, referring to the Islamic State group, and alluding to Kurdish aspirations for statehood.

He was addressing a large crowd at a stadium opening in eastern Malatya province, and slammed the U.S.-led campaign against IS in Syria.

Turkey has been vehemently opposed to the presence of the People's Protection Units, or YPG, in northern Syria. The Syrian Kurdish militants are a key U.S. ally in the fight against IS in Syria, and the ongoing campaign to retake the extremist group's de-facto capital of Raqqa.

But Turkey, a NATO member, considers the YPG to be a terror group and an extension of Kurdish militants that have waged a three-decades-long insurgency inside its borders. The country fears that the Syrian Kurds will attempt to link its semi-autonomous regions in northern Syria, which Erdogan calls a "terror entity project" that threatens his country.

In last year's cross-border operation dubbed Euphrates Shield, Turkey-backed Syrian opposition groups and the Turkish military cleared an area in northern Syria of IS and prevented the YPG from conjoining its territories.

"We would rather pay the price for spoiling plans against our future and liberty in Syria and Iraq rather than on our own soil," Erdogan said.

"Soon we will take new and important steps," he announced.

Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said Saturday that the military dispatched artillery to the border province of Kilis to reinforce units there.

The six-vehicle convoy included tanks and howitzers to be positioned across from the Kurdish-controlled Syrian region of Afrin, according to the private Dogan news agency.
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