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Syrian rebels push IS from desert stronghold Open in fullscreen

Anas al-Kurdi

Syrian rebels push IS from desert stronghold

Palmyra has valuable gas reserves [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2015

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Syrian opposition forces say they have captured areas from Islamic State group near the city of Palmyra in a surprise offensive.

Syrian rebels are reported to have pushed Islamic State militants out of a strategic area of Homs governorate after a suprise offensive.

Fighters took control of large parts of the Alyaniyeh and Halbah areas near the city of Palmyra (Tadmur) in the eastern part of Homs, leading to the possibility of linking territory they hold in Qalamoun to the west and Deir ez-Zor to the east.

The region Palmyra also has valuable gas reserves.

Khaled al-Hasni, an activist based in Homs, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the rebels launched a surprise attack on several IS checkpoints and sites on Saturday in the the Alyaniyeh and Halbah areas near Palmyra.

Following clashes that lasted for several hours, they managed to seize control of large parts of the area.

"According to some of their commanders, the factions killed at least 20 IS fighters, injuring and capturing others, and managed to seize a large amount of weapons and ammunition, while other IS fighters fled the area," Hasni said.

Several opposition factions, namely the Authenticity and Development Front, Usud al-Sharqiyah (Lions of the East), the Martyr Ahmed Abdu group, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam) and Ahrar al-Sham, announced on Friday the beginning of their "conquest" battle against the IS in the Qalamoun heights, in the Damascus region.

However, IS fighters attacked opposition and Nusra Front positions in the area of al-Mahsa near Qaryatayn in Homs's eastern countryside, killing some fighters and seizing their weapons.

Meanwhile, clashes erupted again between IS fighters and the Syrian regime's army around the Shaer field and in several nearby areas in Homs's eastern countryside, where the regime also launched a series of airstrikes.

Two weeks ago, the IS pre-empted the regime's attempts to open a supply line towards the area of al-Sokhna, east of Palymra in the eastern part of the Homs governorate, to break the siege on the city of Deir ez-Zor by attacking a number of checkpoints, killing and injuring dozens of Syrian regime fighters.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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