Security source: Syrian army retakes key town

A boy carries an injured girl into a field hospital after what activists say were four air strikes by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Douma, eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus September 24, 2014. (Reuters)

Syrian government troops recaptured the key rebel-held town of Adra northeast of the capital Damascus on Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported a security source as saying.

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said fighting was ongoing despite army advances, the regime still did not have full control of the town.

“This morning, the army retook control of Adra, reestablishing security,” the security source told AFP.

The rebels captured Adra in December last year and regime forces have been fighting to retake it ever since.

They have advanced incrementally in the town, one of the country’s biggest industrial zones strategically located northeast of Damascus.

The security source said the army had taken control on Thursday of an area in the town used to house workers, after securing the highway and the industrial zone.

He acknowledged, however, that Adra’s small Old City remained under rebel control.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman disputed that account, saying army forces had advanced in the residential zone, but fighting was ongoing, and the Old City was also still in rebel hands.

Strikes hit ISIS-held sites

In a related story, U.S.-led airstrikes targeted Syrian oil installations held by ISIS militants overnight and early Thursday, killing nearly 20 people as the militants released dozens of detainees in their de facto capital, fearing further raids, the Associated Press reported activists as saying.

The latest strikes came on the third day of a U.S.-led air campaign aimed at rolling back ISIS in Syria, and appeared to be aimed at one of the militants’ main revenue streams. The U.S. has been conducting air raids against the group in neighboring Iraq for more than a month.

ISIS group captured most of Syria’s largest oil fields earlier this year and is believed to be partly funding its operations by smuggling oil out and selling it on the black market.

At least four oil installations and three oil fields were hit around the town of Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and two local activist groups. A third activist group loyal to the militants confirmed the reports.

At least 14 militants were killed, said the Observatory, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground. Another five people who lived near one of the refineries in the northeastern Hassakeh province were also killed, the Observatory said, adding that they were likely the women and children of the militants.

France mulls joining Syria airstrikes

Meanwhile, France’s defense minister says the country is considering whether to extend airstrikes to Syria, and top military officials are meeting Thursday to define the country’s mission against ISIS, the Associated Press reported.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio that officials are deliberating whether France’s current plans for airstrikes in Iraq are sufficient against the extremist group, which has havens - and oil fields - in Syria.

“We already have an important task in in Iraq and we will see how the situation evolves in coming days,” Le Drian said. “We are asking the question.”

France’s foreign minister said earlier this week there was no “legal obstacle” to airstrikes in Syria.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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