BEIRUT

Middle East

ISIS campaigns stall, Nusra seizes town near Turkey

BEIRUT: A fierce battle between Syrian Kurds and ISIS militants in rural Aleppo province has killed nearly 50 fighters from both sides as the Kurds seized several ISIS positions, an anti-regime monitoring group said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Nusra Front, the official Al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and bitter rival of ISIS, has seized territory in northwest Idlib also along the border with Turkey from local rebel groups.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes in the region of Ain al-Arab in northern Aleppo province killed 14 members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and 35 jihadists.

Dozens of fighters were wounded, the Observatory said. The Britain-based monitor said the area was now “calm” after the fighting in the region on the border with Turkey.

In the battle, Kurdish fighters took several hills which ISIS jihadists had seized and set up positions.

Earlier in July, hundreds of Kurdish fighters had crossed the Turkey-Syria border into Ain al-Arab, to join the anti-ISIS fight.

In eastern Deir al-Zor province, the Observatory said that Wednesday’s clashes between ISIS and members of the Sheaitat tribe resulted in the killing or wounding of nine ISIS fighters, among them a Belgian and an Egyptian. The clashes were sparked by ISIS militants when they arrested several members of the tribe, despite an earlier pledge to refrain from such actions.

The Observatory said that ISIS established a number of roadblocks and blocked bridges on the Euphrates in a bid to corner the armed tribesmen. It also sent a convoy toward three villages dominated by the tribe, in a bid to end the group’s fight-back against ISIS.

ISIS militants also staged an attack against regime forces near the city of Hassakeh to the north, firing mortar bombs at the outskirts of Hassakeh and killing at least three civilians – a woman and two of her children – with a barrage of mortar bombs.

However, the ISIS fighters were forced to retreat from their positions fearing a response by regime forces, the Observatory said. Pro-opposition media reported that large numbers of people in and around the Hassakeh area were fleeing the clashes.

In northwest Idlib province, Nusra Front fighters seized the town of Sarmada near the Turkish border from local rebel militias, the Observatory said.

A Nusra statement said it was continuing to take action against “corrupt” rebel militias, which it accuses of looting and theft, as well as “un-Islamic” behavior. It repeated earlier threats to take action against any group receiving Western aid, which includes several mainstream rebel groups active in Idlib province.

The Observatory said Thursday’s confrontation began when “skirmishes” erupted between local rebels and Nusra Front fighters, when the latter group sent a large convoy of vehicles in the direction of Sarmada. The fighting ended with Nusra capturing the town.

Nusra has in recent weeks seized a string of villages in rural Idlib, whose provincial capital is held by regime forces.

Also in Idlib province, a general commanding a regime infantry brigade was killed by a land mine, the Observatory said, without giving additional details.

Regime planes launched a number of strikes on villages and towns in Idlib, including Sarmada, Salqin, Kafranbel and Bara.

And in Hama province, rebels killed or wounded a number of regime troops in an ambush late Wednesday, the Observatory said.

The northern and western outskirts of the provincial capital have been the target of rebel attacks in recent days, with the militias using Grad rockets to target the military airport on the outskirts of the city of Hama.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

A fierce battle between Syrian Kurds and ISIS militants in rural Aleppo province has killed nearly 50 fighters from both sides as the Kurds seized several ISIS positions, an anti-regime monitoring group said Thursday.

Dozens of fighters were wounded, the Observatory said.

In eastern Deir al-Zor province, the Observatory said that Wednesday's clashes between ISIS and members of the Sheaitat tribe resulted in the killing or wounding of nine ISIS fighters, among them a Belgian and an Egyptian.

However, the ISIS fighters were forced to retreat from their positions fearing a response by regime forces, the Observatory said.

In northwest Idlib province, Nusra Front fighters seized the town of Sarmada near the Turkish border from local rebel militias, the Observatory said.


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