Beirut: Syria's army battled the Islamic State group on the edges of Deir Ezzor on Monday, seeking to break the siege of a government enclave and oust the jihadists from a key stronghold.
The jihadist group has already lost more than half of its nearby bastion of Raqa to attacking US-backed forces, and the loss of Deir Ezzor city and the surrounding oil-rich province would leave it with only a handful of isolated outposts.
Deir Ezzor province borders Iraq, where the Islamic State has also been expelled from former strongholds Mosul and Tal Afar.
The jihadists hold large parts of Deir Ezzor province, and more than half the provincial capital Deir Ezzor city, the remainder of which is controlled by the government and under the Islamic State siege.
Syrian troops backed by ally Russia have been advancing towards Deir Ezzor city on several fronts for weeks.
By Monday afternoon, Syrian state media said troops were swiftly approaching the city.
"The Syrian army has advanced towards Deir Ezzor to break the siege on it and is now just three kilometres (nearly two miles) from the city," a breaking news alert on state television said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Syrian troops and allied fighters had arrived at the Brigade 137 base on the western outskirts of the city, and were battling to reach troops besieged by Islamic State inside.
A military source told AFP, "There have been multiple collapses of the Daesh (Islamic State) line in the west of Deir Ezzor province, allowing the army to move quickly."
"The siege on the government troops will be broken within hours," the source added.
Syrian troops were also quickly advancing on another front, said the Observatory, adding they were some 12 kilometres from Deir Ezzor's besieged military airport.
Provincial governor Mohamed Ibrahim Samra, quoted by state news agency SANA, said besieged residents were already celebrating as the army neared.
"Yesterday Deir Ezzor city saw celebrations and rejoicing among all segments of society ahead of the expected victory with the advance of the Syrian Arab Army to the outskirts of the besieged city," he said.
In Moscow, the Russian defence ministry also reported that Syrian forces were advancing on the city, backed by Russian air strikes.
"The fall of Islamic State in Deir Ezzor will be a strategic defeat for the international terrorist group in Syria," the ministry said in a statement.
Published Date: Sep 04, 2017 09:33 pm | Updated Date: Sep 04, 2017 09:33 pm