BEIRUT: At least 70 ISIS fighters have been killed in 48 hours of clashes with Syrian army troops in the northern province of Raqqa, a leading anti-regime monitoring group said Friday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS had launched a major push late Tuesday on Tabqa military airport, the last remaining army stronghold in Raqqa, which has been largely overrun by the jihadists.
The assailants had carried out car bomb attacks in their assault but failed to make any breakthrough, the Britain-based group said.
“At least 70 ISIS fighters have been lost since early Wednesday in regime air raids, Scud missile blasts and mine explosions,” Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP.
He said the military was also using barrel bombs to attack ISIS from the air, the same improvised and crude weaponry it has deployed against rebel-held areas of the northern city of Aleppo with deadly impact.
The army Thursday airlifted reinforcements into Tabqa by helicopter, said Abdel-Rahman, whose group relies on information from activists and medics on the ground.
ISIS’ military gains in Raqqa and Aleppo provinces have prompted the Syrian government for the first time to launch intensive air strikes against the jihadists who have seized large swaths of territory straddling Syria and Iraq.
Opposition groups have long accused the regime of avoiding attacks on ISIS as the extremist group battles more moderate rebel forces.
The Observatory said eight airstrikes pounded areas around the city of Tabqa, but there was no information on casualties. In the provincial capital Raqqa, which ISIS uses as its headquarters in Syria, the jihadists executed a man in a public square for allegedly collaborating with the regime, the Observatory said.
In Deir al-Zor province to the east, where ISIS has made sweeping gains in recent weeks, an airstrike on the outskirts of the Tanak oil field, which is controlled by ISIS, killed at least one child and wounded a number of other civilians.
ISIS has also suffered “confirmed” casualties in recent days in the northeastern province of Hassakeh, where it is fighting against the Kurdish YPG militia and allied groups, which have lost “dozens” of fighters in clashes.
The Observatory said fierce fighting took place Friday morning near the Yaaroubieh border crossing with Iraq, and that ISIS was bringing reinforcements to the area.
On a separate front, clashes were reported in and around the city of Aleppo, pitting regime troops and paramilitary allies against a coalition of Islamist rebel groups.
Anti-regime media outlets and the Observatory denied government reports that regime troops had made advances in clashes with rebels in two locations. The fighting was centered on the Zahraa neighborhood in the west, near the Air Force intelligence headquarters, and in the Breij region, near the Aleppo Central Prison. The rebels disabled a regime tank and killed at least four troops, including a lieutenant, the Observatory said.
Helicopters dropped barrel bombs at the site of the fighting and elsewhere in Aleppo but no fatalities were reported.
In Hama province, regime troops killed the commander of an Islamist rebel group in fighting around the strategically located town of Morek, on the highway between Aleppo and Hama, the Observatory said.
In the capital, fighting between regime troops and rebels in the neighborhood of Tadamon, a Palestinian refugee camp in the south of Damascus, claimed lives on both sides, the Observatory said.
While rebel groups’ mortar shelling of Damascus neighborhoods has tapered off of late, the Observatory said Thursday, an adult and three minors were killed when a mortar bomb struck near the Dar al-Salaam school in the shopping district of Shaalan in Central Damascus.