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Pro-government and rebel forces launch separate attacks on 'IS' in Syria

Both the Syrian army and US-backed rebels have launched fresh attacks against 'Islamic State' (IS) fighters. President Bashar al-Assad's forces are aiming to make significant gains in one of the group's main strongholds.

Al-Assad's forces entered the "Islamic State" (IS) stronghold of Raqqa province on Saturday, the same day US-supported fighters opened a new front against the terrorist group in an area close by.

The advance is the first time government forces have managed to breach the boundaries of

Raqqa

province since 2014, when IS first emerged as a major threat in the region.

Aided by

Russian airstrikes

, which pounded areas in Hama province, along the border with Raqqa, government forces were able to reach the edge of Raqqa on Friday night. Forces are aiming to secure control of the Tabqa dam, the country's largest, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Raqqa city.

The capital of the province, also called Raqqa, is the de-facto capital of IS and remains a key target for those seeking to destroy the group.

Second anti-IS assault

The government's territorial gains came the same day US-backed forces, made up mostly of members of the Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces, advanced on the IS-held city of Manbij in the north of Syria.

Assisted by US airstrikes, the rebel forces launched an offensive on the city, which is on an important supply route for IS.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based international monitor, around 20 IS fighters had been killed.

blc/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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