Aleppo in turmoil as clashes intensify between ISIS, Syrian rebels and pro-Assad forces

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Civilians evacuate residential buildings in Aleppo after being hit by regime-fired barrel bombs. File photo

ARA News 

ALEPPO – On Wednesday, militants of the Islamic State group (ISIS) launched a major offensive on strongholds of the Syrian rebels north of the city of Aleppo, local activists reported.

This comes as the Syrian army –backed by Iranian militias and Russian warplanes– prepares an assault on rebel-held areas northern Aleppo.

“ISIS militants took control of large areas in the towns of Ahras and Tel Jabin (12 km north of Aleppo) before being pushed back by rebel groups,” local activists reported.

Any advancement by the terror group in northern Aleppo will threaten the supply lines of rebels inside the city, which is divided between them and the pro-regime forces.

Speaking to ARA News in Aleppo, media activist Mazen Halabi said that the road which residents use to head to the Turkish border was blocked on Wednesday because of intensified clashes between the rebels and ISIS jihadists. 

“Fierce battles broke out between rebel groups and ISIS in Ahras, Tel Jabin and the surrounding areas in the northern countryside of Aleppo,” said Halabi, pointing out that ISIS insurgents were able to control Ahras, but rebels regained it entirely a few hours later.

In a related development, Syrian regime forces have received additional reinforcements recently to back their major ongoing offensive in Hama province and prepare for another in Aleppo’s north, according to opposition activists. 

Also on Wednesday, a team of Iranian lawmakers arrived in Damascus.

Footages circulated on social media showed the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, in a wooded area believed to be in Latakia, in the coastal region of Syria, activists reported. 

Backed by Russian airstrikes, the Syrian regime army and allied militias have been fighting rebels in northern Hama and the neighboring provinces of Idlib and Latakia, in an attempt to regain areas held by rebel groups near the heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect. 

“We have an excellent supply of missiles,” Fares Bayoush, head of the Fursan al-Haq rebel group, told Reuters on Wednesday. “We will, God willing, move to attack, not just defence.”

Stepping up its airstrikes on central Syria, Moscow announced on Tuesday it had carried out 88 missions in the previous 24 hours, one of the heaviest days of bombardment of its campaign so far.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the United States had declined to send a high-level military delegation to Moscow for discussions.

As the U.S. has offered support to rebels that are opposed to both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, are massing with Iran and Hizballah to launch a joint attack against rebels in Aleppo, in a bid to dislodge ISIS as well as the rebels.

Reporting by: Egid Ibrahim

Source: ARA News

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