ISIS multi-front attack kills at least 35 Syria regime forces
BEIRUT - At least 35 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed Saturday in a multi-front attack by the Islamic State group on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadist group had advanced into the northern tip of the city and captured the suburb of Al-Baghaliyeh.
The advance puts ISIS in control of around 60 percent of Deir Ezzor, with the regime holding the rest, according to the Britain-based monitor.
Syrian state news agency SANA said regime troops had repelled an IS attack on the area around Al-Baghaliyeh and inflicted "heavy losses" on the group.
Deir Ezzor is the capital of Deir Ezzor province, an oil-rich region that borders Iraq and is mostly held by ISIS.
The regime has clung onto portions of the provincial capital and the adjacent military airport despite repeated ISIS attacks.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said heavy fighting was continuing on Saturday afternoon after the ISIS assault, which began with a suicide car bomb blast carried out by a member of the jihadist group.
Eight of the regime forces killed were shot dead in executions by ISIS, the Observatory added.
The group said Russian warplanes were carrying out heavy air strikes in support of regime forces as they sought to repel the ISIS advance.
Meanwhile, Syria's government is launching a major assault in the northern province of Aleppo, seeking in part to cut off rebel access to Aleppo city, a security source said.
"Through its operations, the army is trying to broaden its security zone around the city," and prevent the rebels from receiving supplies and reinforcements from the suburbs, the source said.
Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo city is now divided between government control in the west and rebel control in the east.
The broader province is split as well, with the Islamic State jihadist group present in parts of the east, along with the regime, and rebel groups and Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra Front, in the west.
But with backing from Russian air strikes and foreign fighters, Syria's armed forces are slowly advancing south and southeast of the city.
One commander with pro-government forces said they were currently fighting on seven fronts across Aleppo province, and the operation was expected to expand further.
"This will be the biggest military operation in Syria since the beginning of the war," he said.