syria_war.jpg
Photograph: SANA

US-backed Syrian rebels have made more advances towards a key Islamic State-held town on the border with Iraq, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

The New Syrian Army (NSA), a small force trained by neighbouring Jordan, managed to recapture at dawn al-Hamdan airport, only 5 kilometres north-west of the border town of al-Bu Kamal, a key link between Islamic State's territories in the two countries, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog described the ongoing battles between the NSA and Islamic State fighters as heavy, amid strikes by the US-led coalition on bases manned by the jihadist group. 

Al-Hamdan airport used to be an agriculture facility that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad transformed into a heliport during the early stages of the Syrian uprising in 2011, observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told dpa. 

On Tuesday, the NSA had advanced within 15 kilometres of the border town of al-Bu Kamal.

The force appears to have advanced quickly eastwards across the desert from its base at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of al-Tanf, which they captured from Islamic State months earlier.

Al-Bu Kamal lies about 120 kilometres south-east of Deir al-Zour, the main city in Syria's eastern province, which is almost entirely controlled by Islamic State.

Local ground forces, backed by US airstrikes, have by now retaken a number of border crossings between Syria and Iraq from Islamic State in an apparent attempt to impede the extremist group's communications and force movements.

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