BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in Syria (all times local):
The Russian state RIA Novosti news agency is quoting a Syrian army general as saying that the Syrian forces have fought their way into a key Islamic State group stronghold in eastern Syria.
The agency quoted the unidentified officer as saying that the army entered the western neighborhoods of the town of Mayadeen on Friday.
He said the area is now controlled by the Syrian army, include a street market and an ancient citadel. The officer says intense fighting is continuing in southern parts of Mayadeen.
The push into the eastern Syrian town marks the beginning of yet another defeat for IS, which has lost wide swaths of Syria and Iraq over the past months.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier confirmed that Syrian government troops and allied militiamen entered western parts of Mayadeen.
—Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow.
A Syrian opposition monitoring group says government forces have entered the eastern town of Mayadeen, a main stronghold of the Islamic State group in Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces and allied militiamen entered western parts of Mayadeen including the wheat silos compound and the sheep market.
Syrian troops have been marching for days toward Mayadeen under the cover of intense Russian airstrikes and bombardment by government artillery and multiple rocket launchers.
Omar Abou Leila, of the monitoring group DeirEzzor 24, said he cannot confirm or deny the report, adding that it is possible that troops had entered the town given their days-long advance.
Airstrikes on Mayadeen, one of IS’s last strongholds in Syria, and nearby areas over the past days have killed and wounded scores of people.
The Russian military says one of its helicopters was forced to make an emergency landing in Syria after a malfunction on the aircraft but that its two-member crew was unhurt and returned to base.
The Defense Ministry said the Mi-28 helicopter gunship made an emergency landing in Syria’s central Hama province on Friday due to a technical malfunction.
Its two crewmen were not injured and were subsequently flown back to base.
The ministry says the helicopter had not been fired upon. The statement rejected a claim by the militant Aamaq news agency run by the Islamic State group, which said that a Russian helicopter was downed south of Shiekh Hilal village in the eastern Hama countryside.
The Russian military is accusing the United States of turning a blind eye and effectively providing cover to the Islamic State group’s operations in an area in Syria that is under U.S. control.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said on Friday that IS militants have used the area around the town of Tanf near Syria’s border with Jordan — where U.S. military instructors are also stationed — to launch attacks against the Syrian army.
He says the area has become a “black hole,” posing a threat to Syrian army’s offensive against the IS in eastern Der el-Zour province.
The Russian accusations likely reflect rising tensions as U.S.-backed Syrian forces and the Russian-backed Syrian army — both of which are battling IS — race for control of oil and gas-rich areas of eastern Syria.
Syrian opposition activists say 15 civilians including children have been killed when a missile slammed into a government-held besieged neighborhood in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.
The DeirEzzor 24 monitoring group said the missile hit near a school Thursday evening in the Qusour neighborhood. Among those killed were three children and three women, it said Friday, blaming the Islamic State group for the attack.
It said the attack destroyed the school and a nearby residential building.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the incident, putting the number of civilians killed at 13.
Syrian troops broke a nearly three-year siege on parts of Deir el-Zour last month and are fighting to liberate from IS remaining parts of the city.