Thursday 23 May, 2019

The Latest: Syrian troops break IS siege on Deir el-Zour

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Syrian state TV and an opposition activist group say government forces and their allies have reached the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, breaching the nearly 3-year Islamic State group siege on government-held areas.

The TV said troops advancing from the west on Tuesday reached the western outskirts of the city that has been contested since January 2015.

Breaking the siege on Deir el-Zour marks another victory for President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been advancing on several fronts against IS and insurgent groups over the past year.

Rami Abdurrahman who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said advancing troops and those defending the city have met.

Syrian state TV said the siege was broken adding that IS defenses "have collapsed."


12:30 p.m.

Russia's Defense Ministry says a warship in the Mediterranean has fired cruise missiles toward targets of the Islamic State group in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour.

The ministry said the missiles were fired from a frigate on Tuesday.

Moscow is a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has fired such missiles in the past from the sea and mainland Russia.

Russia Today TV said a salvo of Kalibr cruise missiles targeted a group of militants stationed near the city of Deir el-Zour where government forces have been trying to reach the area under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Syrian government forces have been trying to reach a handful of neighborhoods and a nearby airport that are besieged by IS.


12:05 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say government forces are pushing forward to end a nearly three-year siege by the Islamic State group on parts of the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have for months been advancing toward Deir el-Zour, the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of the same name. Government forces are besieged in a handful of neighborhoods and a nearby airport.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces are dismantling mines around a besieged government-held air base known as Brigade 137. The Observatory added that IS fighters are launching counterattacks in the area.

The DeirEzzor 24, an activist group that has reporters throughout the eastern province, reported heavy clashes near the village of Jabra that is adjacent to the besieged area.


10 a.m.

The Russian defense ministry says two Russian troops have been killed in shelling in Syria's east.

The ministry's statement quoted by Russian news agencies late on Monday said the two men died when a convoy escorting Russian cease-fire monitoring staff came under mortar fire outside the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

The ministry said one man died on the spot and the other died later of wounds in a hospital.

Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad's offensive against Islamic State group militants since 2015. The Russian defense ministry said Monday that Russian jets had made 80 flights to back Assad's offensive on Deir el-Zour, a key city that has been under IS siege for three years.

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