Saturday 24 June 2017

Islamic State launches 'worst attack in year' on besieged city in Syria

Refugees who have fled war in Syria (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Refugees who have fled war in Syria (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Islamic State militants launched a new attack on the besieged city of Deir el-Zour on Saturday - in the most fierce fighting in a year, the Syrian government and opposition activists said.

Syrian television said three people were killed and nine wounded in the IS rocket attacks which targeted government-held neighbourhoods from several sides.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported several explosions that rocked the eastern city in the intense offensive. Activists said Syrian warplanes were taking part in the battles to beat back the militants.

Fighting broke out between Syrian troops and IS members in the city and at the nearby military airport controlled by government forces after IS launched their multi-pronged attacks - starting from Baghaliyeh near the north western tip of the city.

The Deir Ezzor 24 news network reported clashes since the morning near Deir el-Zour military airport and other fronts in the city.

It said Syrian warplanes targeted Baghaliyeh and Ayash areas and the vicinity of an army base known as Brigade 137 west of the city.

The group, which controls most of Deir el-Zour province, has kept the provincial capital under siege since 2014.

Government forces have withstood the encirclement thanks to air-dropped humanitarian assistance and weapons and ammunition flown into the airport.

Remaining residents have reported malnourishment and starvation amid severe shortages of food, water and fuel.

IS has tried to capture the government-held neighbourhoods of Deir el-Zour and the city's suburbs over the past months without much success.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday's offensive was the most intense since mid-January 2016, when the group killed dozens of people, most of them pro-government militiamen.

Most of those casualties took place in Baghaliyeh and the killings - many people were shot dead or beheaded - were some of the worst carried out by the extremist group.

The observatory said the group has recently brought in reinforcements, including large amounts of ammunition and fuel, in preparation for the battle.

The Islamic State group, which in 2014 seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and established a so-called Islamic caliphate straddling both sides of the border, is under intense pressure in both countries where it has lost significant territory in recent months.

AP

Press Association

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