A view of a part of western Mosul

(Reuters) An Iraqi Shi’ite force backed by Iran said it pushed ISIS out of several villages on the border with Syria on Monday, potentially reopening a supply route to send Iranian weapons to President Bashar al-Assad.

The maneuver could also be the prelude to a connection with the Assad’s Iranian-backed forces, although they are yet to reach the Iraqi border from the Syrian side.

Syrian rebel sources have warned of advances by the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia to reach the border.

The territory taken by the Popular Mobilisation force on Monday is located north of ISIS-held town of Baaj.

For Popular Mobilisation, it is a step towards achieving a linkup with Assad forces, giving him a significant advantage in fighting the six-year rebellion against his rule.

But the territory is connected with land held by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish groups on the Syrian side, who are more focused on fighting ISIS than Assad.

It is not known whether the Syrian Kurds would allow the Iraqi Shi’ite force to use their territory to reach Assad’s troops, deployed further south and further west.

In a statement on its website, Popular Mobilisation described its advance to the border with Syria as “a Ramadan miracle”, referring to the Muslim fasting month which started over the weekend.

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