Sept. 4 (UPI) — Syrian government forces are close to retaking the eastern city of Deir ez-Zorm, which has been controlled by the Islamic State for three years.
The troops advanced through the desert to the outskirts of the city’s west side, state-controlled Sana news agency reported Monday.
Provincial governor Mohammed Ibrahim Samra said residents had celebrated on the streets Sunday night after learning that soldiers and pro-government militiamen were close.
“The residents of the war-torn city have endured the lack of food and the daily terrorist attacks with mortar shells, not to mention the sacrifices of the martyrs from the city who died defending the homeland,” he said. “But today, they are filled with joy waiting to welcome the heroes of the Army, who are going to break the siege.”
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is assisting the Syrians, reported that pro-government forces had taken control of hills in the city’s western countryside and cut off the Islamic State supply routes Sunday.
It broadcast what was reportedly video footage of the celebrations.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, reported troops had reached the edge of the government-held Brigade 137 base.
Xinhua’s sources said the Islamic State militants were firing mortar shells amid the festive mood.
Deir ez-Zorm, which is about 80 miles from the Iraqi border, is the jihadist group’s last major stronghold in Syria, with its former de facto capital of Raqqa under control by a U.S.-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters.
About 93,000 civilians are living in the government enclave in Deir al-Zour. They are receiving supply flights from the Syrian military and air drops of aid by the United Nations.