IS Gains Ground in Syria Despite Recent Losses

IS Gains Ground in Syria Despite Recent LossesIS Gains Ground in Syria Despite Recent Losses

The self-styled Islamic State militant forces have seized several Syrian villages near Turkey, although the group is losing territory near Raqqa and Fallujah, where an IS commander was killed.

The terrorist group pushed back Turkish-backed rebels in the Aleppo province, leaving some 165,000 people displaced between the frontline and the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, Deutsche Welle reported.

IS forces are now 5 km from the border town of Azaz, which is on a key supply route for their opponents in the area. The anti-IS fighters are also pinched between the terror group and the armed Kurdish forces, which they battled separately in other parts of the province.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said a team was evacuating a hospital in Azaz and that they were “terribly concerned” for the staff, patients and the trapped civilians.

“There is nowhere for people to flee to as the fighting gets closer,” said Pablo Marco, the charity’s manager for the Middle East.

The border with Turkey has been closed for over a year and Observatory activists claim that Turkish soldiers have shot at Syrian refugees who tried to cross over. Ankara has denied the allegations.

The IS advance in north Aleppo comes as the group is being pushed back in a twin offensive by Iraqi forces and a Kurdish-Arab alliance.

In Iraq, anti-IS fighters were nearing the group’s stronghold of Fallujah after launching an offensive to recapture the city earlier this week. A US officer said some 20 strikes in Fallujah had destroyed IS fighting positions.

“We’ve killed more than 70 enemy fighters, including Maher al-Bilawi, who is the commander of ISIL forces in Fallujah,” said US Col. Steve Warren, using another acronym for the IS group.

Hundreds of people fled Fallujah toward the advancing Iraqi forces on Friday, but activists believe there are still tens of thousands civilians in the city.

“We are now hearing reports of contaminated water being used for drinking, while entire neighborhoods are being displaced within the battle zone with no safe way out,” activist Nasr Muflahi said.