BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:30 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) reportedly encircled dozens of fighters of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) in a small pocket east of Hama, Monday, after seizing control of the villages of Kawm and Taiba.

The fighting is part of the SAA offensive to break the blockade of Deir ez-Zor and strangle the supply lines to IS in central Syria. The Russian Air Force is providing cover for Syrian government troops.

In a statement delivered on Monday, head of the Main Operational Department of the Russian General Staff Sergei Rudskoi stated that “the liberation from terrorists of the central part of Syria is nearing completion,” adding that the recapture of Deir Ezzor would lead to “the final defeat” of the main forces of IS.

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