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Russian troops killed amid Syrian regime advance on Deir ez-Zour Open in fullscreen

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Russian troops killed amid Syrian regime advance on Deir ez-Zour

Russian military police in Syria have been tasked with observing evacuations & de-escalation zones [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 September, 2017

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The Russian defence ministry says two Russian troops have been killed in shelling in Syria’s east as regime forces broke the IS siege on Deir ez-Zour.

The Russian defence ministry says two Russian troops have been killed in shelling in Syria’s east as Russian-backed regime forces broke IS' siege on Deir ez-Zour.

The ministry’s statement quoted by Russian news agencies late on Monday said the two men died when a convoy escorting Russian cease-fire monitoring staff came under mortar fire outside the eastern city of Deir ez-Zour.

The ministry said one man died on the spot and the other died later of wounds in a hospital.

Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s offensive against both Islamic State group and moderate rebels since 2015. The Russian defence ministry said on Monday that Russian jets had made 80 flights to back Assad’s offensive on Deir ez-Zour, a key city that has been under IS siege for three years.

Syrian government forces on Tuesday reached troops besieged for years by IS in the city, one of the militants’ last major footholds, state media said.

Tanks and troops had pressed quickly towards a government-held enclave in the city, where Islamic State had encircled thousands of civilians and Syrian forces since 2014.

“The Syrian army and its allies break the siege on Deir ez-Zour,” said a military media unit run by the government’s ally Hizballah.

State media and a war monitoring group also said that the advancing forces had linked up with the besieged troops at a garrison on the western edge of the city.

Islamic State still controls much of Deir al-Zor province, including half the city.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have for months been advancing toward Deir ez-Zour, the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of the same name

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have for months been advancing toward Deir ez-Zour, the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of the same name. Government forces are besieged in a handful of neighbourhoods as well as a nearby airport.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that the advancing forces were less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from a besieged, government-held air base known as Brigade 137. If they reach the base, they will be able to lift the siege.

State TV reported that government forces were only three kilometers (2 miles) away from breaking the siege. State news agency SANA reported the “collapse” of IS defences in the area.

Al-Manar TV, the media arm of Lebanon’s Hizballah militant group, aired footage of people celebrating in the streets of besieged parts of the city. Some 70,000 people live in government-held areas, which have been relying on air drops for food and basic goods.

Hizballah is fighting alongside Assad’s forces, and Russia is providing crucial air support. 

Thousands of people have been fleeing Deir ez-Zour province because of the offensive, many of them heading toward the northeastern province of Hassakeh. Last week dozens of people were killed or wounded by mines laid by the militants.

IS has suffered a series of major setbacks in both Syria and Iraq in recent months. The group is now forcibly conscripting all men between the ages of 20 and 30 to replace lost fighters.

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