A general view shows a deserted road that leads to Deir al-Zor, Oct. 22, 2013.
A general view shows a deserted road that leads to Deir al-Zor, Oct. 22, 2013.

BEIRUT - Syrian government forces seized a final stretch of highway linking the eastern city of Deir el-Zour to the capital Damascus on Sunday in further advances against Islamic State, a Hezbollah-run media unit reported.

Troops moving in from the west linked up with forces already in Deir el-Zour at the Panorama entrance to the city, bringing the whole road under their control for the first time in years, it said.

The Syrian army and its Iran-backed allies, which include Lebanese Hezbollah, this week broke a three-year siege by the jihadists of a government-held enclave of Deir el-Zour and an adjacent air base.

Deir el-Zour, Syria


The rapid government advances, accompanied by Russian air strikes, are squeezing Islamic State in its last major Syria stronghold, as U.S.-backed forces separately oust the jihadists from areas they hold to the east, on the other side of the Euphrates river.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they had made further gains against IS a day after announcing an operation to capture northern and eastern parts of Deir el-Zour province.

Syrian state TV broadcast footage of Syrian officers who had been holed up in Deir el-Zour emotionally greeting their superiors after being surrounded by IS since 2014.

The United Nations has estimated that some 93,000 people were living in "extremely difficult" conditions in government-held parts of Deir el-Zour, supplied by air drops to the air base.

This photo, released Sept. 3, 2017, by the Syrian
This photo, released Sept. 3, 2017, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen standing near military vehicles on the outskirts of the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, Syria.

Islamic State has lost nearly half of its territory across both Iraq and Syria, but still has 6,000-8,000 fighters left in Syria, the United States-led coalition has said.

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