class="story-body__introduction">The Syrian army has retaken Deir al-Zour, the last major stronghold of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, state TV says,according to BBC.Other reports said the Syrian army and its allies were clearing the last pockets of resistance from IS. IS had held most of the city since 2014. It was important because of its proximity to the border with Iraq. Meanwhile Iraqi forces have entered one of the last towns under IS control on the other side of the border. The operation to retake al-Qaim and the surrounding area was launched last week. Some 350,000 civilians in Syria's Deir al-Zour province have been forced to flee their homes during weeks of fighting. The success of the Syrian government forces inevitably raises the potential for clashes between them and US-backed, predominantly Kurdish units who hold a significant swathe of northern Syria. It is a powerful reminder that while the war against the IS "caliphate" is well on the way to being won, the situation on the ground in Syria is becoming ever more complex. With Iran eager to consolidate its influence, questions remain as to the Trump administration's future policy direction now IS is collapsing. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has consolidated his position and looks to squeeze opposition forces in the months ahead. Why is Deir al-Zour important? The city lies on the Euphrates river about halfway between the city of Raqqa, previously the headquarters of IS's self-styled "caliphate", and the Iraqi border. IS had designated the area on both sides of the border as its "Euphrates Province" and used it to transfer fighters, weapons and goods between Iraq and Syria. The cross-border province was also a symbol of the jihadists' intention to eradicate all the region's frontiers and lay to rest the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, an emblem of the colonial division of the area resented by many Arabs. Last month a US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters pushed IS out of Raqqa, In September, the Syrian army broke a siege by IS in part of Deir al-Zour that had trapped an estimated 93,000 civilians in an enclave on western bank of the Euphrates since 2015.
Syrian army retakes IS-held city