Heavily backed by US airstrikes, SDF combattants have thus far captured over a dozen villages and even reached the northern bank of the Euphrates River.
More than two weeks of fighting in central Syria has left hundreds dead on both sides, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They are closing in on militants from three sides with the aim of encircling them in a pocket in the provincial capital. He spoke while standing on a dusty street next to a building with IS slogans written on the walls of what used to be an Islamic law court.
The sixth round of peace talks, which also include representatives of the Syrian government and some rebel factions, was continuing on Friday.
"The town was prepared for a siege and had a network of underground bunkers, and the Syrian army was fighting the militants for practically every house", Lapin said, adding that the population had dwindled to 2,500, all of whom fled by the time the town was recaptured.
Russia and Syrian warplanes were accused to be behind the strike that targeted the positions of the Kurdish-led SDF near the Industrial Zone, east of the Euphrates River in Deir al-Zour countryside, the source added.
Okeirbat was the last stop on the media tour, designed to show the strength of Russia's role in Syria, including its naval and air power.
A senior Russian negotiator attending the talks said that Moscow, Iran and Turkey were close to a deal on the zones, Reuters reported. He added that the "mission of the Syrians, the Iranians and the Russians is to throw the United States out of the region".
The fight against ISIS is increasingly concentrating in the Euphrates River Valley, which stretches from northwest Iraq to southeast Syria.
The Russian-backed offensive in eastern Syria is complicated by a separate and simultaneous campaign of Syrian opposition fighters backed by the U.S. -led coalition.
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