Syrian government 'loses ground' to Nusra Front and ISIL

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By Euronews
Syrian government 'loses ground' to Nusra Front and ISIL

<p>The Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad is fighting a desperate battle against insurgents from different groups.</p> <p>Damascus has suffered a series of setbacks against the so-called Islamic State, which in taking Palmyra and the surrounding area has seized government buildings, gas fields and border crossings with Iraq.</p> <p>To the northwest, insurgents on Friday seized a hospital from Syrian government forces who had been besieged there since late April, <a href="http://www.syriahr.com/en/2015/05/the-nusra-front-and-islamic-factions-take-control-over-the-national-hospital-in-jeser-al-shagour/">the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said</a>, another gain by rebels who have dealt a series of blows to President Bashar al-Assad.</p> <p>Syrian state TV said soldiers holed up in the Jisr al-Shughour hospital in Idlib province had been freed, saying they had managed to “break the siege” in an operation coordinated with air strikes and artillery bombardment.</p> <p>The al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, an insurgent group involved in the offensive, said government forces had fled. “The Mujahideen are pursuing them,” a Twitter feed affiliated to the group reported.</p> <p>The area is strategically important for its proximity to the Mediterranean.</p> <p>The losses in the northwest have been compounded by dramatic advances by the Islamic State jihadist group into government-held areas of central Syria. The group seized the ancient city of Palmyra, or Tadmur, on Wednesday.</p> <p>It has also taken control the last government-held border crossing with Iraq, after Syrian security forces withdrew.</p> <p>The fall of Ramadi is potentially devastating to the Iraqi government. It is the capital of the vast Anbar province, which stretches to Iraq’s western border with Jordan and Syria.</p> <p>Palmyra, or Tadmur in Arabic, is a world heritage site the jihadists might now destroy, as they did the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud this year.</p> <p>It has great strategic and symbolic value for <span class="caps">ISIL</span>, with nearby gas fields, and roads to the capital Damascus, Homs, the cradle of the revolt against Assad in Syria’s centre, and to the south.</p>