Middle East

Syria war: IS 'loses key' Aleppo water station to army forces

Syrian government forces guard a checkpoint after taking control of the village of Shamer on the northeastern outskirts of Aleppo on 7 March, 2017. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Syrian government forces have taken over the Al-Khafsa area, reports say (file picture)

Syrian government forces have retaken a key water pumping station in Aleppo, a monitoring group said.

Residents have been without mains water for nearly two months since the so-called Islamic State group cut it off.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces "took over the area of Al-Khafsa and seized the water-pumping station".

It said the jihadists had fled in the face of a Syrian government offensive backed by Russian air strikes.

The state-run Sana news agency, quoting a military source, said that dozens of militants had been killed in the operation.

The fighting in Aleppo province has featured heavy strikes and shelling, and the UN says at least 26,000 people have fled since 25 February.

Syrian government forces are now said to be closing in on the Jarrah military airport.

The facility was seized by IS in January 2014, after rebels first wrested it from the government in February 2013.

Top generals meet

In another development on Tuesday, senior generals from the Russian, Turkish and US military met in Turkey to discuss closer co-ordination in Syria.

The three-way talks focused on how to avoid clashes between rival forces in the fight against IS.

While Russia, Turkey and the US are all fighting against the jihadist group, they support different camps in the Syria conflict.

Turkey's opposition to the involvement of Syrian Kurdish militia has been a source of ongoing tension.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Turkey's Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar (right) and US Chairman of the Joint Staff General Joseph Dunford pictured after the talks

The meeting in Turkey took place as Russia announced a two-week long ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, the last opposition stronghold near Damascus.

The area has faced a fierce army offensive in recent months, as the Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam), a powerful rebel faction, has its headquarters there.

The ministry said a "regime of silence" had been introduced from midnight on 6 March until 20 March.

Hamza Bayraqdar, a spokesman for the Army of Islam, told the AFP news agency it had not been notified about a ceasefire, but would not "reject any agreement to stop the bloodshed and suffering of our people".

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