Syrian troops reached the edge of the northern province of Raqqa on Saturday, home to the de facto capital of the Islamic State group’s self-styled caliphate, in a push that leaves the extremists fighting fierce battles on four fronts in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
IS, which controls large swaths of territory in both countries, is fighting Syrian troops, U.S.-backed fighters and opposition militants in northern Syria and is facing an offensive by Iraqi government forces on their stronghold of Fallujah.
The Syrian government has had no presence in Raqqa since August 2014, when IS captured the Tabqa air base and killed scores of government soldiers. The provincial capital, Raqqa, became the militants’ first city.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian troops reached the “administrative border” of Raqqa province under the cover of Russian airstrikes. It said that during three days of fighting 26 IS fighters and nine troops and pro-government gunmen were killed.