July 24, 2018 / 10:23 AM / 4 months ago

Syrian army advances in southwest against IS militants

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian army has captured some areas held by Islamic State fighters in a region of the southwest near the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, state media said on Tuesday.

Engineering units were sweeping the areas taken in the Yarmouk basin region for mines and booby traps, it reported, citing a military source.

Recapturing the Yarmouk basin from Islamic State would bring all of southwest Syria, long a crucible of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, back under his control along with the entire frontiers with Israel and Jordan.

The army’s Russian-backed offensive to recover southwestern Syria has already defeated rebels fighting Assad, but the Yarmouk Basin has remained under Islamic State control.

Fighting near the Golan Heights frontier is sensitive to Israel, which on Monday said it had used two missiles to bring down rockets launched in the battle between the Syrian army and Islamic State.

Islamic State lost most of its territory last year after rival offensives by the army, backed by Russia, and an alliance of U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab militias swept through eastern Syria.

This year it also lost its foothold near Damascus in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. However, it has maintained an insurgent campaign in some desert areas in the east.

Reporting By Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean

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