Air strikes, clashes rock IS pocket in south Syria Jul 12, 2018 0 71 12345 AFPBEIRUTRUSSIAN air strikes and fierce clashes on Wednesday rocked a sliver of territory in southwestern Syria held by the Islamic State group, a war monitor said.Much of the southern province of Deraa had been quiet since Friday, when a ceasefire between rebels and Syria's regime ended a nearly three-week government assault.But a local branch of IS, known as Jaish Khaled bin Walid and based in a small area in Deraa's western countryside, was not included in the deal.Early Wednesday, Russian warplanes began pounding the IS-controlled town of Saham al-Golan, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights."Russian air strikes hit Saham al-Golan this morning, as dozens of shells and artillery fire hit the town," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.In retaliation, IS launched an attack southwards on Heet, a rebel-held town that recently agreed to return to regime control.The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources across Syria, gave no immediate death toll for Wednesday's fighting."Daesh (IS) stormed Heet, detonated a car bomb and advanced there and are also intensely bombing the nearby village of Zaizun," said Abdel Rahman.IS claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide car bombing in Zaizun that left 14 fighters dead.The claim, distributed through an online messaging service, included the first apparent reference to the south as an official IS"province," reflecting its plan to re-establish an Islamic"caliphate" despite its crushing military defeats in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.Wednesday's clashes were raging less than ten kilometres (six miles) from the armistice line with the Israeli-occupied Golan, and just four kilometres from Jordan.Anticipating an attack, thousands have fled the IS-held zone in recent days towards the Israeli-occupied Golan.Around 200,000 displaced people have already sought refuge near the sealed armistice line, according to the United Nations.The strategic location makes the south a prize for President Bashar al-Assad.Backed by Russia, his troops began an offensive on Deraa province on June 19 that killed dozens of civilians and displaced more than 320,000 people.That ended Friday, when Moscow brokered a deal for rebels to surrender weapons and hand over towns to regime troops.The agreement also provides for safe passage for thousands of opposition fighters and civilians to rebel territory further north, although those transfers have not yet begun.The regime now controls around 80 percent of Deraa province, while rebels hold around 15 percent, according to the Observatory.The rebel pocket includes parts of western Deraa and the surrounded southern districts of its provincial capital. POST A COMMENT RELATED ARTICLES Drivers rejoice as Damascus dismantles checkpoints Jul 12, 2018 0 67 Turkey detains controversial televangelist over 'fraud' Jul 12, 2018 0 64 Israel Patriot missile intercepts unarmed drone from Syria: Army Jul 12, 2018 0 555 Turkey jails mine bosses over 2014 deadly accident AFP ISTANBUL A TURKISH court on Wednesday handed jail terms of up to 22 years to five top managers convicted of negligence over Turkey's worst ever mining disaster, which claimed hundreds of lives. The accident in May .. Irish Senate clears law to ban goods from Israeli settlements AFP DUBLIN THE Irish Senate gave its support on Wednesday to a draft law prohibiting the import of goods produced in occupied territories around the world, including Israeli settlements considered illegal under .. At least 11 dead in Iran bus-tanker collision AFP TERHAN AT least 11 people died on Wednesday when a fuel tanker collided with a bus in western Iran, state media reported. The vehicles crashed shortly after midnight (1900 GMT Tuesday) in Sanandaj, the capital of ..