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Syria: the regime enters the last city at the hands of the IS

Ⓒ AFP – Paul DEFOSSEUX – | Syria: Boukamal

The regime’s troops and their allies entered Wednesday night in the last city of Syria controlled by the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), according to the official Sana agency.

According to Sana, the army, assisted by its allies, entered the city of Boukamal in the oil province of Deir Ezzor (east), bordering Iraq.

“The units of the army and the allied forces have crossed the defenses of the IS and entered Boukamal, engaging in fierce fighting in the city,” the agency said.

After having retreated in the province of Deir Ezzor in the face of the regime’s offensive and another led separately by an Arab-Kurdish coalition, the jihadists had entrenched themselves in Boukamal.

In early November, IS had lost the town of Deir Ezzor, capital of the province of the same name and last major city under its control in Syria but also in neighboring Iraq.

It was taken over by the regime that launched in September, with the crucial support of the Russian, Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies, an offensive against ISIS in the province.

Although Boukamal is a smaller city than Deir Ezzor, its capture would deprive IS of the last urban area of ​​its self-proclaimed “caliphate” in 2014 over the vast territories conquered between Iraq and Syria, and collapsed.

– Large number of displaced people –

Supported in recent weeks by intense raids by the Russian military aviation, Syrian troops advanced towards Boukamal from the south and west.

And from the east, on the other side of the border, Iraqi forces have cornered ISIS in a border area.

“The move towards Boukamal was made after the troops and their allies and Iraqi forces found themselves on the border between the two countries,” Sana said.

According to a source with pro-regime militias, Shiite Hezbollah fighters advanced to Bukamal on Wednesday. “Some of these fighters crossed the border into Iraq, with the help of Iraqi paramilitary units from Hashd al-Shaabi to bypass Boukamal and then encircle it on the north side.”

Ⓒ AFP – Mahmoud ZAYYAT – | Funeral of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters killed in the war in Syria, held in the city of Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon on November 8, 2017

Hashd al-Shaabi, dominated by Shiite forces, is helping Iraqi government forces in their fight against ISIS.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by fighting in Deir Ezzor province, many of them living in difficult conditions in desert camps.

According to Linda Tom of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Damascus, some 120,000 people have been displaced in recent weeks.

– Able to hit –

The IS had seized almost all of Deir Ezzor and its oil-rich province in 2014, taking advantage of the chaos engendered by the war in Syria.

ISIS controls only a few villages and small towns in Deir Ezzor province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).

In recent months, IS has suffered setbacks and setbacks in Syria and Iraq where only the Iraqi forces are left to seize the locality of Rawa and the desert surroundings in the western province of Al-Anbar, border of Syria, to put an end to the jihadists in the country.

But despite his defeats, the IS manages to hit by carrying out bloody attacks.

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On Saturday, at least 75 civilians were killed in a car bomb attack by the jihadist group in Deir Ezzor province.

The conflict in Syria has left the country bloodless and fragmented between different belligerents, including some foreigners who came to reinforce opposing camps. It killed more than 330,000 people and pushed millions of Syrians into exile.

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