BEIRUT – The Syrian army aims to target Islamic State in Raqqa province, a pro-Damascus newspaper reported on Friday, in a new offensive focusing on areas that a US-backed alliance is also aiming to capture from the jihadists. The initial target is the town of Tabqa, the location of an Islamic State arsenal, the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported, adding that the army would was putting “a foot in the area without leaving it completely to the Americans’ allies”. Tabqa is also a target of the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces alliance (SDF) which has launched a multi-pronged attack against IS in the provinces of Raqqa and neighbouring Aleppo, aiming to deny it access to the Turkish frontier. The Syrian army announced on Thursday a new operation backed by Russian air strikes in the Athriya area of eastern Hama province, some 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Tabqa and some 50 km (30 miles) from the provincial frontier with Raqqa. Asked about the al-Akhbar report, a Syrian military source told Reuters the army was focused on eastern and northern areas of both Homs and Hama provinces “in the direction of Daesh (IS) gatherings”.