Syria: ISIS counter attacks rebels, captures several villages

Syria: ISIS counter attacks Syrian rebels, captures several villages

Islamic State militants captured several villages from Syrian rebels in a counter-attack near the Turkish border that forced the foreign-backed insurgents to retreat, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The rebels, whom Turkey has supported with tanks and air strikes, had been pushing towards the ISIS stronghold of Dabiq, a village with symbolic importance to the jihadists.

The IS attack, which began late on Friday, retook villages including Akhtarin and pushed towards Turkman Bareh, some three km (two miles) east of Dabiq, said the British-based Observatory, which tracks the war using contacts on the ground.

Turkey’s military said two Syrian rebels had been killed and nine wounded in fighting against IS. It said Turkish warplanes had hit 14 Islamic State targets over the last 24 hours and that an air strike by the U.S.-led coalition killed two IS militants.

The latest fighting marks an escalation since Turkish troops crossed the border into Syria on Aug. 24 to back opposition fighters battling Islamic State. Turkey says the operation is aimed at removing the border threat that both ISIS and the Kurdish militias pose.

Turkish special forces and the air force are providing support to the rebels, who opened two fronts against ISIS, in Jarablus where the operations started and in al-Rai town to the west.

Al-Rai is about 55 km (34 miles) west of Jarablus, and part of a 90-km corridor near the Turkish border that Ankara says it is clearing of ISIS militants and protecting from Kurdish militia expansion.

Turkish army targets ISIS positions

The Turkish army hit at least 49 ISIS targets in northern Syria early Friday as part of the ongoing Operation Euphrates Shield, military said.

In a statement, the Turkish Armed Forces said 49 ISIS targets had been hit with 153 Firtina (storm) howitzer fire and 116 rounds of multiple rocket launchers.

A total of 119 residential areas in nearly 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) of northern Syria have been cleared of ISIS since the beginning of the operation, the statement said.

More than 1,990 targets have been destroyed by over 7,701 rounds fired by Turkish Firtina howitzers so far.

In addition, Turkish jets have destroyed 18 targets in an air operation in the region.

An undisclosed number of terrorists were killed, while 15 buildings used by ISIS were destroyed in the operation, the statement added.