Middle East

Reinforcements rush to Aleppo as battles rage

BEIRUT: Syrian rebel groups rushed reinforcements to the city of Aleppo Tuesday in a bid to stave off regime advances, while struggling against militants from the Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS on several fronts around the country.

Regime forces, including elite troops from the Republican Guard, and paramilitaries, also sent reinforcements to the Aleppo area, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-regime group.

As the fighting in and around the northern city heated up, half a dozen leading rebel militias announced the creation of an “elite” force of 600 fighters who would be sent to relieve beleaguered comrades.

The groups include the Syrian Rebel Front, and the Hazm Movement, both active in neighboring Idlib province, as well as the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

The rebel-administered local council of Aleppo warned Monday that the city was in danger of falling out of the hands of the regime.

Abdel-Rahman Dedem, the head of the council, issued a call to the international community, saying that Aleppo might “fall into the hands of the terror of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and his ally ISIS, which constitutes Assad’s military ambassador in areas outside his control.”

A rebel militia active in Idlib Tuesday became the latest defection to the ranks of ISIS in Syria.

The Daoud Brigade, considered relatively well-equipped despite its small size, withdrew from its positions in the town of Sarmeen in Idlib and sent a convoy of nearly 200 vehicles toward Raqqa, ISIS’ stronghold on the Euphrates River.

Opposition news outlets said the brigade, part of the Sham Army militia, was promptly kicked out for “violating the charter” that established the group.

The news outlets said the Daoud Brigade had earlier signaled it would send reinforcements to embattled rebels in Aleppo, but appeared to surprise its allies when it opted instead to throw in its lot with ISIS.

In the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, a commander with the Islam Army militia, which has spearheaded a campaign against ISIS in the area, was assassinated when his car was the target of a roadside bomb.

The explosion killed Abu Mohammad Haroun in the town of Saqba, according to several pro-opposition sources. They said Haroun was also a leading figure in the ongoing campaign against regime troops in the suburb of Mliha, near the highway to Damascus International Airport.

A similar explosion in the nearby town of Douma targeted the car of a member of the United Shariah Committee, the Observatory said. The committee was formed last month as one of the elements of the campaign to unite Islamist militias against ISIS in the Damascus area.

In rural Deir al-Zor, the Observatory said ISIS militants demolished the homes of seven rebel commanders in the village of Dahla, which it recently overran. The previous day, it demolished the homes of two commanders from its Al-Qaeda rival the Nusra Front in the town of Shheil.

In rural Raqqa province near the border with Turkey, the Kurdish YPG militia killed nine ISIS fighters in clashes near the town of Tal Abyad, the Observatory said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 09, 2014, on page 8.




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