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Syrian Army Breaks IS Siege of Deir Al Zour

The Syrian military has broken a siege of the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, surrounded for years by so-called Islamic State (IS), state media said.

The official Sana news agency reported that troops and allied militiamen had joined up with forces at the Brigade 137 base on the city's outskirts.

An estimated 93,000 civilians have been trapped in an enclave on the western bank of the River Euphrates since 2015, the BBC said.

They have depended on military relief flights and air drops of aid by the UN.

Deir al-Zour's surrounding province is the last major IS stronghold in Syria.

Raqqa, the de facto capital of the "caliphate" proclaimed by the group three years ago, is under siege by a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

And in neighbouring Iraq, government forces have recently driven IS militants from the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, leaving them with only two footholds in the country, the BBC added.

A Sana reporter said army units had reached Brigade 137 after advancing from the west and south-west with the support of the Syrian and Russian air forces.

The troops had engaged in fierce clashes with militants surrounding the base, large numbers of whom eventually abandoned their positions and fled without their weapons and ammunition, the reporter added.

Air strikes were also said to have destroyed IS vehicles and fortifications in surrounding villages.

Later, Sana reported that residents of Deir al-Zour had taken to the streets to celebrate the army's victory and the end of the siege.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, confirmed that advancing troops and those defending the city had met. But, it also noted that a separate government-controlled area to the south-east that includes three city districts and military airport was still surrounded by fighters.

The UN had warned that conditions inside the enclave were "extremely difficult".

In February 2016, the World Food Programme began carrying out high-altitude air drops between to deliver food aid and stop people dying from malnutrition. Last month, it said 300 missions had delivered almost 6,000 tonnes of aid, the BBC reported.

Source: Oman News Agency