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Islamic State group facing assaults on multiple fronts

After charging across the Middle East, gaining ground in Syria and Iraq for more than two years, the Islamic State is now fighting on multiple fronts to hold on to the territory it has captured.

On Saturday, amid heavy fighting, Syrian government forces jostled their way closer to the front lines in the province of Raqqa, an area seized by the Islamic State in 2014, while Kurdish fighters supported by the U.S. are said to be close to capturing a key supply route north of the city.

After ISIS militants drew closer to the Turkish border last week, the Associated Press reported that rebel forces in Syria have advanced against the group in Manbij, a city located about 20 miles away.

“We made big progress and we are trying to ensure the safety of civilians before we begin our assault on the town,” Sharfan Darweesh, a spokesman for the Military Council for Manbij, said in a statement. The group is affiliated with U.S.-backed forces in Syria.

Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces take an overwatch position as their fellow fighters advance in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria May 31, 2016. Photo By Rodi Said/Reuters

Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces take an overwatch position as their fellow fighters advance in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, on May 31, 2016. Photo By Rodi Said/Reuters

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces continue edging to the front lines in Fallujah with the backing of coalition airstrikes led by the U.S.

According to a report released in March by the think tank IHS Jane 360, the Islamic State had lost more than 20 percent of its territory since last year and hasn’t made a significant advance since June 2015. U.S. officials said in April that Iraq had taken back about 40 percent of its territory once held by the militant group.

Even as members of the Islamic State have made gains in Libya, in an audio recording the group’s spokesperson, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in May that its fighters have lost territory.

Since January, spurred by offensives by the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, the Islamic State has also incurred losses across the northeast section of Syria, as Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad pushed further east from Damascus with Russian air support — a surge that saw them retake the ancient city of Palmyra in March.

In their most recent advance on Sunday, Iraqi troops pushed toward Fallujah’s southern border. Fallujah is considered to be one of the last bastions in Iraq held by the Islamic group, according to the AP.

Thousands of people have fled Fallujah in recent days in anticipation of Iraq’s military assault. Four people drowned during the escape as they were crossing the Euphrates River.

Iraqi military Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saadi told the AP on Sunday his forces are nearing entry into the city, though some reports warned that Iraqi troops are ill-equipped and undermanned.

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