Syrian army braces to approach de facto IS capital

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Damascus, Feb 13 (IANS) The Syrian army was preparing to advance toward the city of al-Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, a monitor group said on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army was a few kilometres from the provincial borders of al-Raqqa, following the rapid progress it has recently achieved on the desert high way near the town of Athraya, Xinhua reported.

Advancing toward al-Raqqa will grant the Syrian army a foothold in that city for the first time since the IS terror group captured the al-Tabaqa airbase in 2014, the last government stronghold in the city.

In Aleppo, where the Syrian army is making strides against the foreign-backed militants, the Syrian state TV said the military forces captured the town of Tamura on Saturday, overseeing thus the entire rebel-held town of Hayan and the town of Andan.

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Separately, the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on ground, placed the toll among Syrian soldiers who were ambushed last week near the capital Damascus to 76.

Last Sunday, the rebels Islam Army, backed by Saudi Arabia, ambushed a groups of Syrian soldiers in the town of Tal Sawan in the eastern countryside of Damascus, said the Observatory, adding 100 soldiers and officers were still missing.

The fresh development on ground comes as Saudi Arabia and Turkey mull intervening militarily in Syria under the pretext of fighting the IS.

Such an intervention will spark extra chaos in the already war-torn country, particularly after Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said any foreign troops entering Syria without the consent of its government “will be sent home in wooden coffins.”

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