Syr­ian rebels counter IS of­fen­sive, re­take 2 vil­lages

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD -

BEIRUT— Syr­ian rebels re­took two vil­lages from Is­lamic State ( IS) mil­i­tants on Sun­day, as they fought to undo gains made by the ex­trem­ist group in a sur­prise of­fen­sive days ear­lier, ac­tivists said. Rebels re­took the vil­lages of Kafr Shoush and Braghida on Sun­day, ex­pand­ing their buf­fer around the rebel- held town of Azaz, home to tens of thou­sands of peo­ple dis­placed by war, ac­cord­ing to the Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees ( LCC), an ac­tivist network in­side the coun­try.

IS mil­i­tants took Syr­ian rebels by sur­prise on Sun­day when they launched an of­fen­sive that threat­ened to seize Azaz and iso­late Marea, an­other rebel- held town north of the con­tested city of Aleppo.

More than 160,000 civil­ians have been trapped by the fight­ing. The in­ter­na­tional med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion Doc­tors With­out Borders evac­u­ated one of the few re­main­ing hos­pi­tals in the area.

The rebel pocket around Azaz, which con­nects to the Turk­ish bor­der, is sur­rounded by IS mil­i­tants to one side and the pre­dom­i­nantly Kur­dish Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces ( SDF) to the other. Syria’s Turk­ish and Saudi- backed rebels ac­cuse the SDF of col­lud­ing with the gov­ern­ment in the coun­try’s grind­ing civil war.

The IS ad­vance prompted a rare deal between the SDF and rebels on Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tain- based mon­i­tor­ing group. It said the rebels sur­ren­dered con­trol of a vil­lage near Marea to an SDF divi­sion in ex­change for al­low­ing 6,000 civil­ians to evac­u­ate to ar­eas un­der Kur­dish con­trol. Yet, rebels also shelled an SDF- held neigh­bor­hood of Sheikh Maq­soud in nearby Aleppo on Satur­day, killing four peo­ple, the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

Fight­ing con­tin­ued between gov­ern­ment forces, rebels and IS mil­i­tants in other parts of the coun­try on Sun­day.

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