US-backed SDF forces clash with Islamist rebels northern Syria

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Kurdish fighters of the YPG who joined the SDF ranks in fight against Islamists in Aleppo. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

ALEPPO – Battles renewed between the western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Islamist rebels in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo, during which heavy weapons have been used, local sources reported on Wednesday.

Activists and military sources confirmed that casualties on both sides amid progress by Islamists on several fighting fronts.

Speaking to ARA News, media activist Walid al-Sheikh, based in the town of Sheikh Issa in Aleppo province, said that the Islamist factions of Ahrar al-Sham and the Levant Corps along with other Islamist groups launched a major offensive on positions for the SDF forces on the outskirts of the towns Tell Rifaat and Ain Daqna where both sides exchanged mortar shelling and local-made artillery.

Al-Sheihk pointed out that the rebel groups also launched an offensive on al-Burad area, taking control of the town of Ain Daqna after clashes with the SDF.

“Islamist rebels seek to take control of al-Bailouniya hill which overlooks the town of Tell Rifaat,” the source told ARA News, pointing out the battles continue amid attempts by Islamists to storm the SDF-held town of Tell Rifaat.

In the meantime, the SDF leadership accused the Islamist rebels of trying to open the way before the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) to advance in the region at the expense of the Kurdish-Arab alliance [SDF].

“There is a hidden agreement between ISIS and al-Qaeda-offshoot al-Nusra Front pushing ISIS towards areas held by the SDF affiliated group of al-Thuwar Army (Jaish al-Thuwar) after Islamist rebels delivered areas to ISIS,” Munir Nasser, a fighter in the SDF ranks, told ARA News.

“Islamist rebels asked civilians to move to the stable areas in northern Aleppo, while the Nusra Front’s leadership has tactically decided to deliver the towns of Marea and Azaz to ISIS,” a rebel spokesman from al-Thuwar Army said in a statement on Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, the SDF forces tried to break into the town of Sheikh Issa adjacent to the town of Marea in northern Aleppo, but the Islamist rebels were able to deter the offensive, forcing the SDF fighters to retreat towards the town of Tell Rifaat. 

However, after the Kurdish forces and SDF allies have cut off the Azaz-Tel Rafaat road subsequent to fierce clashes with militants of Nusra Front and the Islamic Movement Ahrar al-Sham, “the SDF became able to make larger gains against the Islamists in the northern countryside of Aleppo,” according to Kurdish military sources.

Reporting by: Taim Khalil and Siman Jiwan

Source: ARA News

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