A Syrian regime operation backed by Russian warplanes and helicopters has killed 25 members of Daesh in central Syria, a monitor said Sunday.
Supported by regime ally Russia, regime forces have waged a months-long offensive to recapture the vast desert region that stretches from the country's centre to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.
On Saturday, "25 Daesh members were killed and others wounded in a commando operation by Syrian regime forces with air support from Russian warplanes and helicopters" in the northeast of Homs province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Six members of the regime forces were also killed, it said.
A military source said the Syrian regime had air-dropped its forces 20 kilometres behind Daesh front lines. The aim of the operation is to link regime-held areas in southern Raqqa province to the strategic town al Sukhna, in Homs.
The raid allowed regime forces to seize control of three villages in the area, Syrian regime's news agency SANA reported the source as saying.
Regime forces now control swathes of territory in the province.
According to the Observatory, Daesh now controls dozens of villages in the east of Homs.
The Syrian "Badiya" is a large stretch of desert that extends over around 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of territory.
Since 2015, much of the Badiya has been held by Daesh, but regime forces have been chipping away at it since May.
Last week, the Observatory said regime forces had ousted Daesh from Al-Sukhna, the last Daesh-held town in Homs province.
Syrian regime forces and Russia this weekend confirmed its full recapture.
"The liberation of Al-Sukhna from Daesh terrorists opens up possibilities for Syrian regime forces to launch an assault and free the city of Deir Ezzor," a Russian army statement said.
Daesh holds the majority of the vast desert province of Deir Ezzor including most of its provincial capital.
The recapture of Deir Ezzor "would largely – if not completely – mark the end of the fight against Daesh," Russia's Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu on Sunday told the Russia 24 television channel.
Regime forces have more than doubled the territory they control in Syria over the past two months, he said.
Forces loyal to regime leader Bashar al Assad are also fighting the militants in the south of neighbouring Raqa province.
More than 400,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-regime protests, the Syrian Center for Policy Research says.