Russia says Syrian government doubled territory it controls

The Syrian government has increased the size of the territory under its control by two and a half times in just two months, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says, as Syrian forces backed by regional allies and the Russian air force seized thousands of square miles (kilometers) from the Islamic State group in the center of the country.

Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-organized militias and the Russian air force have recaptured much of the country’s central Homs province from the Islamic State group in 2017. Most of the province is desert. It contains several energy fields as well as phosphate minerals.

Syrians walk and drive past destroyed buildings in the government held Jouret al-Shiah neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on September 19, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/LOUAI BESHARA)

They are driving toward the city of Deir el-Zour, kept under siege by IS militants since 2015.

Shoigu, in an interview on Russian state-owned Rossiya 24 TV, says recapturing Deir el-Zour “will say a lot, if not everything, about the end of the battle with” the Islamic State group.

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