Iraqi forces enter al-Qaim in final offensive on ISIS-held areas

Valery Sharifulin  TASS

Government forces launched the operation last week to seize Al-Qaim and its surroundings, a pocket of barren desert along the Euphrates river near the border with Syria.

The first is being led by the Syrian regime, backed by Russian forces, on the western banks of the Euphrates.

Six long-range Tupolev Tu-22 Backfire bombers, several fighter-bombers and a submarine struck the Islamic State stronghold of Albukamal, Syria, on November 3, killing fighters and destroying equipment and buildings, Russia's defense ministry said.

"The threat remains, and there is still hard work to do, but we will continue to stand side-by-side with the Iraqi Government and the ISF to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS", White said. He used an Arabic name for IS in the broadcast.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that more than 140 people were also injured in Sunday's attack in the suburbs of Deir Az Zor.

The forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad have been backed by Russian air raids since September 2015, helping to turn the tide in the war against ISIL and other armed groups.

The province was once largely held by IS, though parts of Deir Ezzor city stayed under government control throughout the jihadist group's reign. It is also the largest to be recaptured by the Syrian government from ISIS.

Mayhoub described it as the "last phase" of the military's campaign toward the annihilation of IS in Syria. It is considered an important oil-rich city.

Earlier in the day, Iraqi forces also retook the nearby Husaybah border crossing with Syria, according to the prime minister's office.

Qaim, about 200 miles, west of Baghdad in the Euphrates River Valley and has been used by ISIS to ferry fighters and supplies between the two countries at the height of the caliphate, when ISIS held almost a third of both Iraq and Syria.

Liberating the city is the second major blow to the IS militants, after losing their de facto capital of Raqqa last month to the SDF.

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