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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Dozens dead in IS, govt clashes in Syria's Raqqa

Clashes have erupted in Raqqa and Idlib [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 September, 2020

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At least 28 fighters were killed in clashes between Syria pro-regime forces and Islamic State militants in the northern province of Raqqa.
Clashes in Syria between pro-regime forces and Islamic State group jihadists, along with air strikes, killed at least 28 fighters in the northern province of Raqqa, a war monitor said on Tuesday.

"IS has since Monday carried out several attacks on Syrian army and allied positions and checkpoints in the Badia (desert) of Raqqa, killing 13 members of regime forces," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based monitoring group, told AFP the regime has retaliated with waves of air raids, killing 15 jihadists either in the strikes or fighting on the ground.

Read also: Syria Insight - Cautious hope for change with constitution talks

Since its defeat in Syria in March 2019, IS has carried out regular deadly attacks on the army and Kurdish forces.

In August, the jihadists claimed an attack near the city of Deir az-Zour that killed a general and two other soldiers of the Russian army forces allied to the Damascus government.

Clashes also took place in Idlib province in Syria between regime forces and rebels from the National Liberation Front (NLF) on Monday night, one day after Russia launched its heaviest airstrikes against the opposition province since March.

NLF rebels launched mortar and rocket strikes at regime forces in the towns of Saraqeb and Kafranbel in retaliation for regime strikes on the rebel-held area of Jabal Al-Zawiya in southern Idlib.

An NLF source told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that regime troops had been killed and injured in the rebel strikes, without giving numbers of casualties.

Russian planes flew over the area, while a new convoy of Turkish military vehicles entered Idlib province. Turkey, which backs the Syrian rebels, currently has over 60 observation posts and positions in Idlib.

The entry of the vehicles came despite a recent Russian demand that Turkey reduce its military presence in Syria.

Following a bloody regime and Russian campaign against Idlib province - which displaced over a million people in 2019 and early 2020 - Turkey and Russia reached a ceasefire deal in March, although the truce is frequently violated by all sides.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Al-Arabiya TV that military conflict between the Syrian regime and opposition had "ended".

"There are only two hotspots,” he said, "the first being Idlib, whose territory is controlled by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham".

"The second hotspot is the eastern bank of the Euphrates, where the illegally stationed American forces joined the separatist forces, and is irresponsibly playing with the Kurds."

He added that joint Russian-Turkish patrols of the strategic M4 highway in Idlib, which had recently been suspended due to differences between the two sides, would resume when the situation "calmed down", referring to militant attacks on the convoys.

Idlib is one of the last areas of Syria controlled by anti-Assad rebels, with the hardline Islamist group Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) currently the largest and strongest group in the area.

Much of eastern Syria is controlled by the Kurdish-led, US supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who generally avoid confrontation with the Assad regime.

However, the southern Syrian province of Daraa also remains unstable, despite a 2018 deal which allowed the Assad regime to take control of the area from rebels.

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