BEIRUT, Jan 16, (Agencies): At least 75 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime militiamen were killed Saturday in a multi-front attack by the Islamic State group on the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, a monitor said. The fi ghting came as regime forces battled IS in the northern province of Aleppo, repelling a jihadist assault and killing at least 16 fi ghters from the group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS had advanced into the northern tip of Deir Ezzor city, in eastern Syria, and captured the suburb of Al- Baghaliyeh. The advance puts IS in control of around 60 percent of the city, with the regime holding the rest, according to the Britain-based monitor. Syrian state news agency SANA said regime troops had repelled an IS attack on the area around Al-Baghaliyeh and infl icted “heavy losses” on the group. Deir Ezzor is the capital of Deir Ezzor province, an oil-rich region that borders Iraq and is mostly held by IS.
The regime has clung onto portions of the provincial capital and the adjacent military airport despite repeated IS attacks. Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said heavy fi ghting was continuing on Saturday afternoon after the IS assault, which began with a suicide car bomb blast carried out by a member of the jihadist group. Eight of the regime forces killed were shot dead by IS jihadists, the Observatory added.
The monitor said Russian warplanes were carrying out heavy air strikes in support of regime forces as they sought to repel the jihadists. Some 600 Britons have been stopped from going to Syria to try to join Islamic State and other jihadist groups, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in comments reported Saturday.
Meanwhile some 800 have made it through since 2012, with half of them still thought to be inside the war-torn country, he said, in comments reported in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers. “Approximately 800 Brits have been to Syria, of whom half are still there. But on top of that 800, we have stopped another 600,” he said, on a visit to southern Turkey.
The foreign secretary said the number of Britons stopped in Turkey had gone up in the past eight months due to Ankara reassessing the scale of the threat posed to Turkey by Islamic State (IS). Condemning Syria’s “barbaric” sieges, the United Nations demanded Friday immediate access to besieged towns to deliver food, medicine and other life-saving aid to civilians facing starvation. “There can be no reason or rational, no explanation or excuse, for preventing aid from reaching people,” UN aid offi cial Kyung- Wha Kang told an emergency Security Council meeting on ending the blockades. France and Britain requested the urgent talks after reports emerged of dozens of people who have died from starvation in the town of Madaya, where aid deliveries fi nally arrived this week. A total of 35 people have died there since early December, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which warned a dozen more patients “could die very soon if they are not evacuated.”