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Status of main battle fronts in Iraq and Syria

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Beirut (AFP)

Here are the latest developments on the main battle fronts in Iraq and Syria, as of 1600 GMT on Friday:

SYRIA

- Battle for Aleppo -

Syrian warplanes launched new air strikes on the last rebel-held districts in Aleppo, as key regime ally Russia vowed the assault would continue until opposition fighters leave the city's east.

The latest raids came after a brief pause overnight which Russia said was to allow the evacuation of civilians, but artillery fire continued.

Three weeks into the government assault, regime forces have captured around 85 percent of east Aleppo, and the insurgents are now confined to just a few districts of their former stronghold.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled east Aleppo in recent weeks, many seeking shelter in the regime-held west or districts controlled by Kurdish forces.

The United Nations said it received reports that rebels blocked some residents from leaving and expressed concern about reports that hundreds of men have gone missing after fleeing to government-held areas.

East Aleppo has been blockaded by the regime since mid-July, with food supplies dwindling even before the government assault began in mid-November.

At least 409 civilians, including 45 children have been killed in the government's assault, while rebel fire on government-held areas killed another 113 people, including 35 children, a monitoring group says.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the assault has prompted tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in the east.

Diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire have floundered despite repeated talks between Washington and Moscow, which back opposing sides in the conflict.

- Raqa -

Islamic State group jihadists killed 15 Syrian soldiers and pro-regime fighters near Palmyra on Friday, taking the government's losses in 24 hours of clashes to at least 49, the Observatory said.

The jihadists' advance brought them to within four kilometres (two and half miles) of the ancient desert city, which government forces recaptured in March.

Further east, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance, is trying to advance on the Islamic State group's de facto Syrian capital of Raqa.

IRAQ

- Battle for Mosul -

Since launching an offensive on October 17 to oust IS from its last Iraqi stronghold, pro-government forces say they have recaptured almost half of eastern Mosul and are edging towards the Tigris river that divides it.

The elite Counter-Terrorism Service has retaken several eastern neighbourhoods and was fighting on Friday in Al-Noor district, just over three kilometres (two miles) from the river.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces have been fighting on a western front. On Thursday they were clearing Tal Abtah of bombs and booby traps after a fierce, days-long fight to retake it.

Iraqi forces on the southern front have halted within striking distance of IS-held Mosul airport, while the northern front has frozen in recent days.

The United Nations says a total of 82,000 people are currently displaced as a result of the Mosul operation.

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