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Syria, Russia Pound Islamic State Ahead of Scheduled Truce

Nafeesa Syeed


Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded Islamic State positions near Aleppo on Wednesday, a group monitoring the conflict said, trying to regain access to a strategic road whose fall to the militant group set back the allies’ advances before a scheduled truce.

Islamic State has tightened its grip on the Syrian military’s only land route to Aleppo, the country’s largest city, according to the the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the fighting through a network of activists on the ground. The militants also control at least 12 hilltops near the town of Khanaser, which they captured on Tuesday, and on the road linking Khanaser to Aleppo, it said. The route connects government-controlled territory in northwest, central and western Syria.

The bombing campaign comes ahead of a limited cease-fire brokered by the U.S. and Russia due to take effect on Feb. 27, though the exclusion of Islamic State and other militant groups from the pact has dimmed expectations of a reduction in fighting. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned of a widening war drawing in the major powers and their allies more deeply.

“If a humanitarian solution can’t be found to the problem in Syria and peace doesn’t prevail to everyone’s satisfaction, then the proxy


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