Islamic State attacks Syrian army and Kurds in twin assault

BEIRUT, (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters have launched simultaneous attacks against Syrian government and Kurdish militia forces, moving back onto the offensive after losing ground in recent days to Kurdish-led forces near the capital of their “caliphate.”

Islamic State sought to retake the initiative with incursions into the Kurdish-held town of Kobani at the Turkish border and government-held areas of Hasaka city in the northeast.

In a separate offensive in the multi-sided Syrian civil war, an alliance of rebels in the south of the country also launched an attack with the aim of driving government forces from the city of Deraa.

The attacks by Islamic State follow a rapid advance by Kurdish-led forces deep into the hardline group’s territory, to within 50 km (30 miles) of its de facto capital Raqqa. The dual assaults on government forces in Hasaka and Deraa, both provincial capitals, are a test of Assad’s resolve to hold out in remote outposts beyond the western part of the country that is seen as the top priority for his survival.

The United States and European and Arab allies have been bombing Islamic State since last year to try to defeat a group that a year ago proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State advanced rapidly last month, seizing cities in Syria and Iraq. The latest Kurdish advance in Syria has shifted the momentum again, but Islamic State fighters have often adopted a tactic of advancing elsewhere when they lose ground.

The group said it had seized al-Nashwa district and neighbouring areas in the southwest of Hasaka, a city divided into zones of government and Kurdish control. Government forces had withdrawn towards the city centre, it said in a statement.

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