Islamic State (Daesh) fighters on Thursday moved closer to the city of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria, a monitoring group said, as the extremist militia pushes to expand its presence in the war-torn country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadist group's advance on the outskirts of al-Hasakah, the capital city of a province of the same name, followed clashes with Syrian government troops.
The Observatory's head, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said that Islamic State fighters were just 500 meters from the entrance to the city.
At least 27 regime soldiers and 20 militants were killed in the fight, according to local activists.
The al-Hasakah province has been under the joint control of regime forces and the Kurdish People's Protection Units militia since government forces withdrew from much of the province in 2012.
The Kurdish news Agency ARA reported on Thursday that two car bombs hit a checkpoint of the Kurdish security forces (Asayish) in the village of Oum ad-Dibis, around 15 kilometers from the town of Ras al-Ain in the countryside of al-Hasakah.
The attacks resulted in an unspecified number of casualties, including civilians, according to the agency.
Syrian state media reported fierce fighting near al-Hasakah, but without giving casualty figures.
The media quoted the governor of the province, Mohammed al-Ali, as saying that "the sons of al-Hasakah are engaged in a ferocious battle" against Islamic State.
The al-Qaeda splinter group has maintained positions south of al-Hasakah province since mid-2014.
Government forces remain in the province's main cities of al-Hasakah and Qamishlo.
Last month, Islamic State seized the historic city of Palmyra in central Syria, raising concerns over the fate of the city's artifacts.
The radical militia has previously looted and demolished ancient sites in neighbouring Iraq.
By Weedah Hamzah
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