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Syrians Push Through IS, Reach Iraqi Border

Syrian soldiers celebrating their victory (File Photo)Syrian soldiers celebrating their victory (File Photo)

Syrian troops and allied forces fighting the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group have reached the Iraqi border for the first time since 2015, advancing close to a strategic area that has been at the center of tensions between Damascus and Washington.

State news agency SANA, citing a military source, said “army units in cooperation with allies managed to arrive at the border ... with Iraq” on Friday, and “set up positions in an area northeast of At-Tanf”, Aljazeera reported.

Forces from a US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq are using a garrison in Al-Tanf to stage attacks against the armed group and train Syrian rebels to fight them.

The SANA report said the advance came after “the last” IS fighters in the area “were eliminated”.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had earlier said dozens of pro-government forces had arrived at the point on the Syria-Iraq border around 70 km north of Al-Tanf.

“What you’re seeing now ... is the cutting off of access of coalition-led efforts to push north,” Aljazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkish-Syrian border, said.

“Why this is important is because up from there is Abu Kamal, a border crossing that ISIL controls on both sides [between] Syria and Iraq; it is the only area of highway that ISIL controls because [the rest] is all desert land.”

The terrorist group is also known as ISIL and Daesh.

Asked about the Syrian government’s advance, the US-led coalition expressed concern.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near coalition and partner forces in southern Syria ... continue to concern us, and the coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” it said in a statement.

“As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward coalition and partnered forces, the potential for conflict is escalated,” it added.

On Thursday, a US jet shot down a pro-government combat drone that fired what turned out to be a dud bomb close to the coalition’s Al-Tanf garrison near the Jordanian border.

The drone fired into empty space, but the coalition considered it to be a threat.

The Pentagon credited Syria’s ally Russia with helping to calm tensions after the drone incident. The Pentagon has not said who was operating the drone, but the area near Al-Tanf has seen a surge in activity by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

It was the third time the coalition has struck pro-government forces near Al-Tanf in less than a month, as tensions on the border area grow.

 

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