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Syria: US special forces 'seize gas field from IS'

The SDF and Syrian army have launched rival offensives against IS in Deir az-Zour [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 September, 2017

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The US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria has reportedly seized a major gas field in the country's eastern Deir az-Zour province.
US forces have reportedly seized a gas field in Syria's eastern Deir az-Zour province.

The coalition stormed the Conoco gas field following an air operation, according to local sources in the province, reported Qasioun news agency, although neither the US or the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Arab-Kurdish alliance it backs, has confirmed the operation yet.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a fire raged through Conoco on Tuesday night and into Wednesday, after Syrian state media reported that the army was advancing towards it. The Islamic State group had fled the area, the Observatory added.
IS militants are currently battling two separate offensives in Deir az-Zour, launched by the SDF on one side and the Syrian army and its allies on the other.

The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions, with the US-backed militia on Monday warning against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river from which SDF are advancing.

On Tuesday, Russia's Defence Ministry said the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it. The only way that could have happened was if upstream dams held by the US-backed opposition had been opened, it said.

Raqqa campaign in final stages

The SDF said on Wednesday its campaign to capture Raqqa from Islamic State militants was in its final stages and its fighters had seized 80 percent of the city.

In its fight against a separate operation waged by the Syrian army and its allies, IS has collapsed along the west bank of the Euphrates downstream of Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

The SDF launched its offensive on the group in Raqqa city in June, backed by US-led air strikes and special forces on the ground. The city had served as Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria.

In a statement on Wednesday, the SDF said it had opened a new front against IS on the northern edge of Raqqa. This was "a feature of the final stages of the Euphrates Wrath campaign, which is nearing its end". 

"We can say that 80 percent of the city of Raqqa has been liberated," the statement said.

An SDF media official said the main obstacles facing the alliance in Raqqa are avoiding civilian casualties and a high concentration of mines. He estimated that 700 to 1,000 IS fighters remain in the city.

The Observatory said on Wednesday that IS now controls only 5 percent of the city and its remaining militants there have nearly run out of food and munitions.

The hardline militants lost their main stronghold in Iraq, the city of Mosul, in July to Western-backed Iraqi forces.

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