BEIRUT: The U.S.-led coalition hit Islamic State group targets in Syria’s central province of Homs for the first time Saturday as it pressed what Washington says are “near continuous” strikes, a monitoring group said.
The coalition also targeted IS in the town of Minbej, east of second city Aleppo, for the first time, as well as multiple targets in the jihadist heartland province of Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the targets hit in Homs province were far away from the front line with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, who control Homs city, Syria’s third largest.
“The U.S.-Arab coalition has for the first time struck IS bases in the eastern desert of Homs province,” Abdel Rahman said, adding that the positions were in the area of Al-Hammad, east of ancient city Palmyra.
Washington has been keen not to let Assad’s forces exploit the air campaign against IS to take the upper hand in the more than three-year-old civil war.
In eastern Aleppo province—the western limit of IS control—the coalition hit several jihadist targets in Minbej, said the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of activists and doctors for its reports.
Further east, the coalition pounded the city of Raqqa, which the jihadists have made their headquarters, the Britain-based group said.
“At least 31 explosions were heard in Raqqa city and its surroundings.”
The strikes also hit IS targets around the town of Tabqa, which houses an airbase whose capture by the jihadists last month sealed their occupation of the whole of Raqqa province, as well as two training camps, the Observatory added.
The United States and its Arab allies launched air strikes against IS and other jihadist positions in northern and eastern Syria on Tuesday.
A U.S. defense official told AFP on Friday that the mission is now similar to U.S.-led air raids against IS in Iraq, with “near continuous” combat flight operations over Syria.