Rebels advance in north-western Syria
Syrian rebels launched a huge offensive on government-held areas in north-western Syria in a bid to advance towards a coastal region vital to President Bashar al-Assad's control of western Syria, a monitoring group said on Tuesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said insurgents including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front captured government-held positions outside the town of Jisr al-Shughour and pushed into the northern tip of the Sahl al-Ghab plain overnight.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the UK-based Observatory, said government forces had launched a counter attack and had recovered some lost ground in Sahl al-Ghab.
Reuters reported a military source who said "The battles are ongoing in that area between the army and the militant attackers, the terrorists."
Insurgents including the Nusra Front captured Jisr al-Shughour in May, part of a wider offensive that drove Syrian government forces from nearly all the northwestern province of Idlib.
Elsewhere, Syrian troops and Kurdish fighters ousted the Islamic State group from Hasakeh Tuesday, more than a month after the extremists launched an assault on the north-eastern city, a monitoring group said.
Government troops and Kurdish forces, who share control of the city, had been battling since June 25 to push IS forces out of the city, which is the capital of Hasakeh province.
IS "was expelled by the army from Zuhur, the last district in which it was present in Hasakeh, and its fighters have been pushed to the southern outskirts of the city," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.
At least 287 IS fighters, among them 26 minors, had been killed in the fight for Hasakeh, as well as strikes by the US-led coalition outside the city, he said.
Another 120 soldiers and pro-regime militiamen and several dozen Kurdish forces were also killed.
State news agency SANA said Syria's armed forces "dealt great blows to the Daesh (IS) terrorists in Zuhur" Tuesday, but did not say the extremists had been pushed out of the city.
"Army units advanced again into Zuhur, where they executed a special operation against the terrorist hotbeds", it reported.
IS has attacked Hasakeh city several times, but the latest assault was the most serious yet.
Its forces initially seized several districts in the southern part of the city, with Kurdish fighters and regime troops mobilising against them.
The Observatory said IS had used at least 21 car bombs and several suicide bombers during the month-long campaign.