Syria’s army seized the last Islamic State (ISIS) group stronghold in the country’s Homs province on Saturday, clearing their path to attack the jihadists in the country’s east, a monitor said.
Al-Sukhna, some 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of the famed ancient city of Palmyra, is the last town on the road to the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, where a government garrison has held out against an IS group siege since early 2015.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said government forces had captured the town after heavy army artillery fire and air strikes by government ally Russia.
There was no official confirmation of the capture from Syria’s government, but the state news agency SANA said the army had surrounded the town from three sides.
With the help of Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has put rebels on the back foot over the past year. The wide array of mostly Sunni rebels include jihadist factions and other groups supported by Turkey and Gulf monarchies.
Since May, Syria’s army has been conducting a broad military campaign with Russian support to recapture the vast desert that separates the capital Damascus from Deir Ezzor and other towns along the Euphrates Valley.
Already defeated in its Iraqi bastion of Mosul, the IS group is facing multiple assaults in Syria.
The US-backed Syrian Defence Forces now control more than half of its most important remaining stronghold Raqa.
The multi-sided Syrian conflict, which grew out of popular protests against Assad’s rule in 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and created the world’s worst refugee crisis.