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Syrian forces rush to Palmyra, continue to pound rebel-held Aleppo

Click to play video: 'Video shows ISIS troops forcing Syrian soldiers to retreat'
Video shows ISIS troops forcing Syrian soldiers to retreat
WATCH: The Syrian army sends more troops to Palmyra, where they have been fighting Islamic State fighters in some of the heaviest clashes since the group lost control of the historic city earlier this year – Dec 10, 2016

The Syrian army said it has sent reinforcements to Palmyra, where Islamic State fighters have advanced to its outskirts in some of the heaviest fighting since the group lost the historic city earlier this year.

The group had taken over areas to the northwest and southeast of Palmyra, and clashes continued on Saturday (December 10), the army said in a statement.

A rebel commander from the Jaish al-Mujahideen group based in the Aleppo countryside said the IS attack was forcing the Syrian government to divert troops from Aleppo, where the army and its allies are on the verge of a major victory against rebels.

READ MORE: ISIS leader linked to Charlie Hebdo attack killed in Syria airstrike: U.S. military

The army did not specify where reinforcements were brought from.

Islamic State’s assault, which began late on Thursday (December 8), has killed dozens of Syrian soldiers and quickly taken over grain silos and control of some oil and gas fields around Palmyra, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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A statement by Islamic State’s Amaq online news agency said the militants had pushed towards Palmyra airport on the town’s eastern outskirts, which Russian forces have been using to support the Syrian army.

Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency released video on Saturday to show IS fighters in clashes with Syrian army troops in Jazal, northwest of Palmyra.

A U.S.-led coalition which is separately fighting against the jihadist militants said late on Friday (December 9) it had carried out 168 IS oil tanker trucks near Palmyra in a large air raid.

Syria, Russia pound rebel-held Aleppo but advances halt

A win for President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo looks close, but fighting still raged on Saturday.

Russian warplanes and Syrian artillery bombarded rebel-held districts, and rebels responded with shelling of government-controlled areas as gunfire rang out, a Reuters correspondent in Aleppo said.

Russia and Syria said on Friday they had reduced military operations to allow civilians to leave.

WATCH: Russian releases aerial video showing 20,000 civilians leaving eastern Aleppo

Click to play video: 'Russian releases aerial video showing 20,000 civilians leaving eastern Aleppo'
Russian releases aerial video showing 20,000 civilians leaving eastern Aleppo

But rebels say their counter attacks are what have halted government advances.

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“There’s no advance by the regime. They (rebels) have stopped them several times,” Zakaria Malahifji, a Turkey-based official in the Fastaqim rebel group told Reuters.

Government forces launched an attack in the Izaa area near the Old City early on Saturday which insurgents repelled, destroying an army tank, he said.

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