Story highlights

Iraqi security forces storm a neighborhood of Falluja

They have already recaptured the key small town of Saqlawiya

Syrian forces enter Raqqa province for the first time since 2014

CNN  — 

Iraqi security forces rapidly closed in on key ISIS-held territories on Saturday with advances to regain control of militant controlled towns, military officials say.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces made progress against the militant group in the region surrounding the province of Raqqa in the first push into the area since 2014.

Iraqi security forces, with the support of other militia, stormed the first neighborhood in southern Falluja at the weekend after recapturing the district of al Nuaimiya – 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from central Falluja.

Falluja: The American and Iraqi ‘graveyard’

Separately, Iraqi security forces recaptured the key small town of Saqlawiya, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northwest of Falluja, on Saturday. Troops there “raised the national flag over the town’s main buildings,” Iraq’s Joint Operation Command said.

The Iraqi military swept through the streets conducting searches for “hundreds of IEDs” that ISIS planted throughout Saqlawiya, military officials said.

Coalition warplanes carried out an airstrike on ISIS militants as they were trying to escape on a raft on the Euphrates River, south of the city, killing everyone aboard raft, the officials said.

The takeover of Saqlawiya comes a day after coalition warplanes bombed ISIS command centers and tunnel networks in Falluja, killing dozens of militants.

The airstrikes targeted ISIS tactical units, intelligence sources said.

Iraqi security forces said Saturday’s advances mean ISIS is losing its last strategic foothold between Falluja and the rest of Anbar province to the west, as well as other areas to the north.

The fight for Falluja: Why it matters

In January 2014, Falluja became the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS – dealing a blow to Iraq as well as Western countries battling the terrorist group. Saturday is the first time more than two years Iraqi security forces have come this close to a full takeover, army officials said.

Voices from Falluja

Meanwhile, Syrian forces made progress against the militant group in the region surrounding the province of Raqqa in the first push into the area since 2014.

Parallel offensive

The Syrian Army, joined by Russian forces, advanced into the province on Saturday “in a major offensive backed by Russian warplanes,” according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Aid groups say the military advance to enter Raqqa, located on the north bank of the Euphrates River, comes after three days of intense fighting.

“At least 26 ISIS militants and 9 Syrian military soldiers were killed,” said SOHR.

This is the first time in two years the Syrian Army has been inside Raqqa province.

As Syrian forces fight on the ground, they continue to receive help from the international coalition targeting ISIS from the sky.

The civil war in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people nationwide and displaced more than 10 million, according to the United Nations.

A humanitarian crisis

As the battle for Falluja intensifies, an estimated 50,000 people, including 20,000 children, are trapped between opposing fighters, according to the United Nations.

Men and boys who refuse to fight for ISIS are being killed, and civilians have died in heavy shelling, the United Nations says.

Aid groups say ISIS is using thousands of civilians there as human shields.

The hundreds who have escaped say Falluja lacks food, clean water and medical supplies.

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this article.