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Syrian Rebels Seize Iraq Border Crossing From Islamic State


Syrian rebel fighters seized control of a crossing on the Iraqi border, activists said, after air strikes from the U.S.-coalition battered Islamic State fighters, pushing them back from the Syrian side of the border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said March 5 that rebel forces entered from Jordan to seize the Al-Tanf crossing on the Syrian side of the Iraqi border.

The fighting began a day earlier when fighters from the Free Syrian Army's Southern Front routed IS fighters, killing one and wounding several others, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network in Syria.

The Iraqi side of Al-Tanf remains under control of Islamic State fighters, who had initially seized both sides of the border in May 2015, activists said.

Along the rest of the border with Iraq, Islamic State militants control the key Albu Kamal crossing, but Kurdish fighters control Yarabiyah to the north.

After seizing vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and 2015, Islamic State insurgents have seen their gains rolled back by Kurdish forces in Syria, as well as Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries.

Brett McGurk, the lead U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the group, said Islamic State, also known as Daesh, has lost important ground in Syria in recent weeks.

"The overall square kilometers that Daesh has now lost in Syria has increased exponentially in just over the last couple weeks. But it's not just the territories, it's the strategic nature of the territory," McGurk told reporters in Baghdad.

The group still controls territory in Syria and Iraq, including Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. It has also carried out a number of large bombings in Iraq over the past week that have killed dozens of people.

McGurk declined to put a timeline on when the group would be defeated or when Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, considered the group’s stronghold, would be retaken.

"Daesh is losing. As they lose, we focus increasingly on stabilization," he added, referring to plans being made to rehabilitate and police cities recaptured from militants.

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