The Latest: Syrians push to break IS siege on eastern town

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

12:05 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say government forces are pushing forward to end a nearly three-year siege by the Islamic State group on parts of the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have for months been advancing toward Deir el-Zour, the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of the same name. Government forces are besieged in a handful of neighborhoods and a nearby airport.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces are dismantling mines around a besieged government-held air base known as Brigade 137. The Observatory added that IS fighters are launching counterattacks in the area.

The DeirEzzor 24, an activist group that has reporters throughout the eastern province, reported heavy clashes near the village of Jabra that is adjacent to the besieged area.


10 a.m.

The Russian defense ministry says two Russian troops have been killed in shelling in Syria's east.

The ministry's statement quoted by Russian news agencies late on Monday said the two men died when a convoy escorting Russian cease-fire monitoring staff came under mortar fire outside the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

The ministry said one man died on the spot and the other died later of wounds in a hospital.

Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad's offensive against Islamic State group militants since 2015. The Russian defense ministry said Monday that Russian jets had made 80 flights to back Assad's offensive on Deir el-Zour, a key city that has been under IS siege for three years.