ISIS and rebels in clashes
Groups battle in northern Syria
Fighting in northern Syria between Turkey-backed Syrian rebels and ISIS militants killed at least 15 rebels as the opposition tried to push toward a town of symbolic importance for the extremists, an activist group and Turkish officials said yesterday.
In central Syria, meanwhile, two suicide bombers struck in the city of Hama near an office of President Bashar Al Assad’s Baath party, killing two people and wounding at least 12, state news agency SANA said.
The agency report said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed belt in Hama’s Al Assi Square Monday, and another suicide bomber struck 15 minutes later. SANA said one of the agency’s photographers, Ibrahim Ajaj, was wounded as he was covering the explosions, adding that he is in stable condition.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the two explosions killed two people and wounded 14.
Hama is Syria’s fourth largest city and has been relatively quiet in recent years. It’s firmly under the control of Al Assad’s forces. The twin bombings came as various insurgent groups have been on the offensive north of the city. Suicide attacks in government-held areas are not uncommon, but such blasts in Hama have been rare.
The death toll among the Syrian rebels near the Turkish border is the highest since Turkey sent troops and tanks into Syria in August to help rebels re-take ISIS strongholds in the area and curb the advance of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara views as an extension of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish separatists.
Turkish military officials said 15 Syrian opposition fighters were killed and about 35 wounded in the fighting, which seeks to capture seven residential districts south of the town of Al Rai.