Syrian rebels counter IS offensive, retake 2 villages
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.