Much of Syria Won Back Says Russian Defense Ministry

Much of Syria Won Back Says Russian Defense Ministry

Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday (September 12) that Syrian government forces had driven militants from much of the country where President Bashar al-Assad's rule seemed in danger two years ago.

Speaking at Hmeimim air base, near Latakia, the chief of staff of the Russian military contingent in Syria Alexander Lapin said that "to date, 85 percent of Syria's territory has been cleared of the militants of illegal armed groups".

Lapin said Islamic State fighters are still in control of around 27,000 square km of Syria's territory.

Government forces last week reached Deir al-Zor city, the provincial capital on the Euphrates River, breaking an Islamic State siege of a government-held pocket and a nearby air base.

Syrian government forces and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) converged on Islamic State in separate offensives against the militants in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor on Sunday.

The SDF, an alliance dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes and Special Forces, have been fighting since June to clear ISIS from Raqqa city.

Advances in the multi-phased Raqqa offensive are proceeding cautiously however, officials say, as ISIS uses snipers, car bombs and booby traps. ISIS also forbids civilians from leaving the area, prolonging the effort to flush the jihadists out.