Middle East

Syria conflict: Army 'breaks IS siege of Kuwairis airbase'

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Syrian government forces deployed on a road south-east of Aleppo (4 November 2015) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Syrian government forces launched an offensive in Aleppo province last month

Government forces have broken a siege by Islamic State (IS) of an airbase in northern Syria, state media report.

Army units had made contact with troops defending Kuwairis airbase, east of Aleppo, and eliminated large numbers of militants, the Sana news agency said.

The facility had been under attack by the jihadists for nearly two years.

Meanwhile, at least 22 people were killed and many more wounded by rebel shellfire in the Mediterranean city of Latakia, state media and activists say.

The blasts hit two separate areas of the city, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. With many of the wounded in serious condition, the death toll is expected to rise, the Observatory said.

Latakia, which lies in the heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's minority Alawite sect, has largely escaped the conflict that has devastated most of Syria and killed more than 250,000 people.

Syrian government forces were holed up inside the Kuwairis base under siege from Islamic State, while pro-government forces tried to reach them with air support from Russia.

The successful assault on the base comes a week after the Syrian army battled Islamic State to regain control of a road southeast of Aleppo and took back control of the government's only supply route into the city.

Areas around Aleppo have seen weeks of heavy fighting after Syrian troops, backed by Lebanese and Iranian fighters, launched an offensive to retake surrounding territory from rebels and jihadist fighters.

The regime offensive has so far focused on clearing rebel-held areas south of Aleppo, rather than targeting the city itself.