35 die as Syria forces re­pel IS air­port attack: mon­i­tor

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pro-gov­ern­ment forces re­pelled an attack on a key Syr­ian mil­i­tary air­port by Is­lamic State group af­fil­i­ated mil­i­tants, los­ing 20 fighters but killing al­most as many ji­hadists, a mon­i­tor said Satur­day.

“Mil­i­tants who pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group at­tacked the out­skirts of the Khalkha­lah mil­i­tary air­port in Sweida prov­ince on Fri­day,” said Rami Ab­del Rah­man, the head of the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights.

Forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad main­tained con­trol over the air­port and its sur­round­ing ar­eas de­spite los­ing 20 fighters. At least 15 IS ji­hadists were killed.

Syria’s of­fi­cial news agency SANA said the army had “blocked at­tempts from IS ter­ror­ists to in­fil­trate” ar­eas near the air­port.

Khalkha­lah lies along a ma­jor high­way be­tween Da­m­as­cus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a strong­hold of the Druze mi­nor­ity that has largely avoided the blood­shed of Syria’s war.

The attack on Khalkha­lah was the first by IS, but the air­port has been pre­vi­ously tar­geted by rebels and Syria’s al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate.

In March, Syr­ian rebels and Is­lamist fighters seized the town of Bosra al-Sham, which is south of Sweida but lo­cated along the same high­way as Khalkha­lah air­port.

Also on Fri­day, al-Qaida’s Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate with­drew from a key area along Syria’s bor­der with Jor­dan, the Ob­ser­va­tory said.

Rebels and the Al-Nusra Front took con­trol of the Nasib cross­ing in the south­ern prov­ince of Daraa from regime forces last month.

Nasib had been un­der attack by mod­er­ate rebel forces, but fell shortly af­ter Al-Nusra joined the on­go­ing of­fen­sive.

The ji­hadists and other rebels held the check­point, the duty-free zone be­tween the two cross­ings, and the cus­toms area.

Al-Nusra with­drew from the check­point last week and left the other ar­eas Fri­day.

“The other fighters asked them to leave Nasib be­cause they weren’t in the fight to begin with,” Ab­del Rah­man said.

Kurds counter IS of­fen­sive

IS mil­i­tants were also fought back in the north­east prov­ince of Hasakeh, where Kur­dish mili­tia took on the ex­trem­ist group in bloody clashes Fri­day night.

The Kur­dish Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) “re­took at least four check­points and a num­ber of neigh­bor­hoods” around the town of Tal Tamr, Ab­del Rah­man told AFP.

He said the Kurds had launched a “counter-of­fen­sive” against an IS as­sault on the town that be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, adding that in the past 24 hours, seven YPG fighters and 24 IS mil­i­tants were killed.

Though small, Tal Tamr has strate­gic value be­cause it lies on a road that runs east across the Iraqi bor­der to IS’s bas­tion in Mo­sul, as well as north to the Turk­ish bor­der.

AP

In this photo re­leased by the Syr­ian of­fi­cial news agency SANA, Syr­i­ans gather be­tween dam­aged build­ings, in the pre­dom­i­nantly Chris­tian and Ar­me­nian neigh­bor­hood of Suleimaniyeh, Aleppo, Syria, Satur­day, April 11. Syr­ian state tele­vi­sion and an ac­tivist group say op­po­si­tion fighters have shelled the gov­ern­ment-held neigh­bor­hood in the north­ern city of Aleppo, killing sev­eral peo­ple and wound­ing dozens.

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