Syrian warplanes bomb Islamic State near Hasaka

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Syrian war planes on Friday bombed Islamic State fighters trying to advance into the northeastern city of Hasaka in an offensive that is adding to the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad following recent defeats elsewhere.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, also reported fierce battles between Islamic State militants and the army backed by allied militia on the city’s southern outskirts.

Islamic State this week launched a big offensive targeting the government-held portion of Hasaka city, which is divided into zones run separately by the state and a Kurdish administration that has a well-organised militia.

The attack follows heavy defeats last month for Islamic State in the northeast by the Kurdish YPG militia. With air support from a U.S.-led alliance, the YPG has driven the jihadists from swathes of the surrounding area.

Islamic State has used around a dozen suicide car bombers in the attack on Hasaka city this week, and has seized two government-held positions south of the city – a prison under construction and a power installation.

An Islamic State news bulletin said the group’s fighters were 1 km from the city, with only one army position separating them from its southern entrance. A Syrian military source said, however, that Islamic State’s attack had been repelled, describing the situation as excellent. The Observatory said dozens of combatants had been killed on both sides in this week’s fighting.

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