Dozens dead in central Syria as ISIS battles regime push

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Dozens of regime forces and militants have been killed in central Syria as the ISIS group strives to hold off a regime advance there, a monitor said Wednesday.

With Russian backing, Syria’s army has been waging a months-long offensive to recapture the vast desert region that stretches from the country’s center to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

It has captured swathes of territory from ISIS in the central province of Homs, but the militants have ramped up their counter-offensives there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said ISIS had dispatched at least five suicide car bombs and had laid mines throughout several frontline towns in Homs.

At least 39 government forces were killed and another 25 wounded since Tuesday, the Britain-based Observatory said.

“The regime has spread itself across a long frontline, and now ISIS is intensifying its counter-attacks,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

According to Abdel Rahman, 30 IS fighters were also killed over the past 24 hours in clashes with regime fighters and in Russian air strikes.

Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed Wednesday that air strikes had targeted IS positions, including an ammunitions depot, in Homs province.

The Syrian “Badiya” is a large stretch of desert that extends over some 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) of territory.

Since 2015, much of the Badiya has been held by the militant group, but Syria’s army has been chipping away at it since May.

On Saturday, the Observatory said regime forces had ousted ISIS from Al-Sukhna, the last militant-held town in Homs province.

There has been no official confirmation of Al-Sukhna’s capture from Syria’s government.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

It has since morphed into a complex war involving regional and international players.