ISIS advances in flashpoint north Aleppo

Activists blamed rebel losses on Russian airstrikes in the area.

ISIS fighters. (image via Eldorar)

BEIRUT – ISIS has swept into a village outside a key rebel supply line in northern Aleppo, with activists blaming the setback on Russian airstrikes against rebel factions which are also battling a Kurdish-affiliated coalition further to the west.


The new ISIS advance is the latest battlefield development to rock the flashpoint northern Aleppo front adjacent to a swathe of territory Turkey wants to turn into a “safe zone” free of both the extremist group and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YGP).


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday morning that “fierce clashes are raging in the area around the village of Kafrah and other nearby areas, between ISIS on one side and rebel factions on the other.”


“ISIS has advanced and information suggests that it has taken control of large parts of the area,” the monitoring NGO added.


Activist media outlets, in turn, reported Wednesday that ISIS had stormed into Kafrah, a village 10 kilometers east of the rebels’ key supply route running through Aazaz from the Turkish border toward Aleppo.


Shaam news blamed the loss of Kafrah, as well as the nearby village of Jarez, on Russian airstrikes as well as local rebel factions’ “preoccupation” with their recent fighting against the YPG-aligned Jaysh al-Thuwar coalition.


"It should be noted that Russian warplanes raided rebel positions in the area, which facilitated the group’s entry into those villages," the activist outlet said.


In turn, Mustefa Ebdi—a Kurdish journalist based in northern Syria’s Kobane—claimed that ISIS had seized control of Kafrah “without resistance.”


The recent ISIS advances east of Aazaz comes after Jaysh al-Thuwar on Thursday launched an offensive west of the key town against rebel groups in the area.


Jaysh al-Thuwar’s opponents in northern Aleppo have accused the group of fighting on behalf of and alongside the YPG, while the coalition insists it is defending itself against “barbaric attacks” perpetrated by Nusra.


The Marea operations room—a collection of Free Syrian Army-aligned factions—says that Nusra has no presence in the area, although the SOHR has reported the involvement of the Al-Qaeda affiliate in fighting with Jaysh al-Thuwar.


Fierce clashes between Jaysh al-Thuwar and other rebels around Aazaz continued through Tuesday morning, with Turkish media and activists reporting that Russia was conducting airstrikes on behalf of Jaysh al-Thuwar and the YPG.


The YPG insists that is not involved in the fighting near Aazaz, and has instead been defending its territory in the Afrin canton further to the west as well as the Kurdish-populate Sheikh Maqsoud area of Aleppo city.

ISIS fighters. (image via Eldorar)

ISIS has advanced and information suggests that it has taken control of large parts of the area.