BEIRUT — The Latest on developments in (all times local):
Syrian activists and Iranian state TV say Syrian troops and allied forces have seized a strategic mountain overlooking Deir el-Zour province, which is mostly controlled by Islamic State militants.
Syrian government forces control part of the provincial capital of the same name and its airport, but have been besieged by IS for years.
Russia, which is providing air support to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, says capturing the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province is the current military priority.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the advancing forces gained control of the Bishri Mountains on Thursday. Iran’s state-run Al-Alam TV also reported the advance.
The leader of Hezbollah says he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad to discuss a deal to evacuate Islamic State militants from the Syria-Lebanon border.
In a speech Thursday, Hassan Nasrallah said he sought Assad’s help to negotiate the deal, which resulted in a cease-fire with the militants in return for information on the remains of nine Lebanese soldiers captured in 2014.
“I went personally to President Assad and asked for his help to remove Daesh from” the area, he said, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym.
Under the deal, hundreds of militants were bused out of the area through Syrian government-controlled territory, bound for an IS-held town near Iraq. That has angered Iraq and the U.S., which has launched airstrikes to block the IS convoy.
The U.N. human rights chief is urging the U.S.-led coalition and other forces fighting in Raqqa against the Islamic State group’s “murderous regime” to do more to protect civilians from airstrikes and other firepower.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed concern that “forces involved in battling ISIL are losing sight of the ultimate goal of this battle.”
There are some 20,000 civilians trapped in the Syrian city.
Al-Hussein’s office said Wednesday that total civilian casualties from airstrikes and ground-based strikes on Raqqa are difficult to count, but that it was a “large number.”
It tallied 151 civilian deaths from six incidents in which at least six civilians were reportedly killed this month.
Zeid also expressed concerns about the city of Deir el-Zour to the southeast, predicting it will be “the next big battle” after Raqqa.
The media arm of Lebanon’s Hezbollah says the group has received the body of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard member recently captured and killed by the Islamic State group.
The handover of Mohsen Haji’s body is part of a controversial deal brokered by Hezbollah to clear IS fighters from an area along the Lebanon-Syria border.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said Thursday that Haji’s body was received by the group and is now awaiting a DNA test before being sent to Iran.
U.S. airstrikes blocked the advance of an IS convoy carrying militants toward Iraq on Wednesday, derailing the Hezbollah-negotiated deal that removed some 600 extremists and civilians from the Lebanon-Syria border.
The evacuation agreement had angered many Iraqis, who accused Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah of dumping the militants on the Iraqi border.