The Syrian army reached the edge of the northern province of Raqqa Saturday, home to the defacto capital of the self-claimed caliphate of the Islamic State group fighting in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian troops reached the “administrative border” of Raqqa province, backed by Russian airstrikes.
It said that during three days of fighting at least 26 Islamic State militants had been killed along with nine from the Syrian troops and allied forces.
Syrian troops began to move toward the province Wednesday, the same day that U.S.-backed forces attacked the IS-stronghold of Manbij, some 115 kilometers to the northwest of Raqqa.
Troops with the U.S.-backed, predominantly Kurdish, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced closer to Manbij Saturday. The observatory said that SDF fighters had captured 34 villages near Manbij.
It is unclear whether the attacks were coordinated.
IS Fighting 4 Battles
IS fighters are also engaged in fierce battles with the al-Nusra front for the rebel-held stronghold of Marea, a town nearly 70 kilometers west of Manbij, but so far has not captured the city.
While fighting continues in Raqqa province, Manbij and Marea, IS fighters are also coming under fire in their stronghold of Fallujah by Iraqi government forces that launched their offensive on the city almost two weeks ago.
Violence in and around the contested northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest and once commercial center, claimed more lives Saturday, according to Russian sources that put the number of killed at 40 and injured at 100.
The city has been the scene of fierce fighting, even during a cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia that took effect in late February, but collapsed weeks later.