Syrian troops capture more ground in push on IS stronghold

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Syrian state media and an activist group say government forces have captured more ground in their push toward the northern city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that Syrian troops and special forces known as “Desert Hawks” are getting close to the Tabqa military air base, which was lost to IS in 2014.

The SANA news agency says troops are advancing under the cover of airstrikes by Syria’s air force and “Russian friends.” The report says troops now control the Zakiya area, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Tabqa, which is southwest of Raqqa.

The Observatory says that since government forces began their offensive toward Raqqa last Wednesday, 70 IS fighters and nine troops have been killed.

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