Syrian rebels faced two major setbacks as pro-government forces and the Islamic State group militants — in unrelated incidents — recaptured a number of towns and villages from the anti-regime fighters.
After gaining control of large areas in the Hama province over the past few weeks, the rebel forces Saturday lost several parts to the government and its allies — Russian air force as well as Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi fighters — the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
According to Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV, al-Talisiya, al-Qahira and Tel al-Usud were among the towns and villages retaken by the Syrian army in the first major victory in the western province for the government’s forces since the rebels — backed by many Western governments and Turkey — launched an offensive in August.
In another blow to the rebels, terrorists from the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS) were able to capture a number of villages near the Turkish border of the country, the observatory reported.
The rebels — backed by Turkish tanks and air strikes — were making considerable advances towards the militant stronghold of Dabiq, which holds symbolic importance for ISIS fighters, but the latest attack late Friday retook several villages including Akhtarin.
Reuters reported Turkey as saying that two Syrian rebels were killed and nine wounded in the fighting, while its warplanes attacked 14 ISIS targets in the past 24 hours. Ankara backs the rebels in order to target both the Islamic State group, as well as Kurdish militants along its border.
The operation — called “Euphrates Shield” — involves Turkey deploying tanks and warplanes to support the Syrian rebels.
The civil war in Syria has claimed more than 250,000 lives and with the displacement of over 11 million people, has caused a refugee crisis in the world. There has also been an increase in the presence of militant Islamist groups in the country as the five-year-old civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebel groups to gain control of the country drags on.