September 18, 2017 / 1:27 PM / 3 months ago

Syria's Deir al-Zor air base working again: state media, monitors

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Deir al-Zor military airport in eastern Syria, which the Syrian army recaptured this month from Islamic State, began functioning again on Monday for the first time in nearly a year, Syrian state media and a monitoring group said.

The military base is seen as a valuable asset for the Syrian army as it presses its campaign against Islamic State in Deir al-Zor province.

Two planes landed and took off from the base on Monday, state TV reported - the first such activity there since September 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

Monday’s flights carried aid to Deir al-Zor, Syrian state media and the British-based Observatory said.

On Sunday, the United Nations said it had halted costly airdrops to the city as a land corridor opened.

The U.N. has estimated that some 93,000 people were living in “extremely difficult” conditions in government-held parts of Deir al-Zor during the Islamic State siege and were supplied by air drops to the base.

Syrian government forces and their allies broke Islamic State’s three year siege of Deir al-Zor earlier this month, reaching the government-held enclave in the city and the adjacent air base.

The Syrian army and U.S.-backed militias are fighting separate offensives against Islamic State in the province, the jihadist group’s last major stronghold in Syria.

Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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