ISIS counterattack kills 34 Syria regime forces in Raqqa

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At least 34 Syrian soldiers and allied fighters have been killed in an ISIS counterattack in the east of Raqqa province, rolling back regime gains, a monitor said Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militant group had recaptured large swathes of territory from government forces in the fighting on Thursday.

Syria’s army is seeking to advance through Raqqa province to reach neighboring Deir Ezzor, where militants have besieged government forces and civilians in the provincial capital since 2015.

Earlier this month, government troops and allied fighters arrived at the outskirts of Madan, the last IS-held town in the eastern Raqqa province countryside before Deir Ezzor.

The counterattack

But in Thursday’s counterattack, ISIS “made major progress and... expanded the area under its control along the southern bank of the Euphrates,” the Observatory said.

“ISIS has managed to push regime forces back 30 kilometers from the western outskirts of Madan," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The Syria army operation in the area, backed by air support from ally Russia, is separate from the battle for provincial capital Raqqa city.