Rebels seize air base to cut off Islamic State transit between Iraq, Syria

 Rebels seize air base to cut off Islamic State transit between Iraq, Syria. DAMASCUS, Syria, Syrian rebels backed by the United States on Wednesday seized the Hamdan small airport near the Iraq border used as a base by the Islamic State.

The Islamic State last week lost control of the city of Fallujah in Iraq after a nearly month-long offensive by Iraqi security forces. On Wednesday, the Islamic State lost control of a key airport it used as a base in Syria that was a main transit point used by the militant Islamist organization. Photo by Abbas Mohammed/UPI | License Photo

The air base is near the city of al-Bukamal, where the Islamic State took control in 2014. The city is one of the main transit points used between Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIL or ISIS.

The U.S.-backed New Syria Army on Tuesday began an effort seeking to cut off the Islamic State’s transit between Syria and Iraq. Several rebel factions have taken part in the operation.

“This new operation is aimed at recapturing al-Bukamal and cutting off a main supply line for ISIS between Iraq and Syria,” a New Syrian Army spokesman told ARA News.

Rebel fighters began taking territory surrounding al-Bukamal, including IS-held positions. Syria has been blighted by a complex civil war in which the Islamic State, the Syrian government and multiple Syrian rebel groups fight for control of territory.

In Iraq, the Iraqi security forces recently took back control of the city of Fallujah. Iraqi forces are continuing efforts to take the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, away from IS control.

By Andrew V. Pestano