The Latest: Lebanese army drives IS from Syria border posts


BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

Lebanese state media says the army captured a number of strategic hilltops bordering Syria from Islamic State militants on Sunday amid mounting expectations for a campaign to decisively defeat them there. The National News Agency says the army captured several hills between the frontier towns of Ras Baalbek and Arsal, and the Army says in a statement it destroyed IS fortifications and killed several IS militants.

The militants have been a thorn in the country’s side since they began filtering in from neighboring Syria, which has been in the throes of civil war since 2011.

In 2014, the IS and al-Qaida-linked militants briefly occupied Arsal before the Army joined forces with the militant group Hezbollah to drive them back out of the town. The authorities have blamed a string of terror blasts in the country dating back to 2013 on the two extremist groups. The explosions have killed dozens of people.


3:30 p.m.

Syria’s Ministry of Tourism says visits to Syria have jumped 25 percent so far this year.

Tourism Minister Beshr Yaziji says 530,000 people visited Syria during the first half of 2017, a 25 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016. His comments were reported on state media on Sunday.

Syria is home to a number of Muslim shrines and holy sites that draw religious pilgrims from across the Middle East. It is especially popular to Shiite worshippers visiting from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and farther afield.

Pro-government forces, backed by Russian air power, were able to reclaim a number of contested sites from the Syrian opposition in 2016, bringing relative calm to the country’s two largest cities, Aleppo and Damascus, this year.


1:45 p.m.

A Syrian war monitoring group says pro-government forces have captured the last Islamic State group stronghold in the energy-rich Homs province in central Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says 30 IS militants were killed in the last 24 hours of battle for the town of al-Sukhna. It says the Russian air force provided air support and bombed the town.

The Observatory said al-Sukhna fell to pro-government forces on Saturday.

Syrian military media reported capturing the town on Sunday. The advance puts pro-government forces 68 miles (110 kilometers) from reaching companion forces trapped in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour. IS militants have held the city under siege since 2015. It has depended on risky supply flights and air drops for relief and weapons.

Categories: International News