Islamic State fighters captured territory from Syrian rebels near the Turkish border on Friday and inched closer to a town on a supply route for foreign-backed insurgents fighting the jihadists, a monitoring group said.
The hardline group has been fighting against rebels in the area for several months. The rebels, who are supplied via Turkey, last month staged a major push against Islamic State, but the group counter-attacked and beat them back.
The United States has identified the area north of Syria’s former commercial hub Aleppo as a priority in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS).
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday’s advance was the biggest by IS in Aleppo province for two years. It brought the jihadists to within 5 km (3 miles) of Azaz, a town near the border with Turkey through which insurgents have been supplied.
Islamic State said in a statement it had captured several villages near Azaz. Reklama internete ir kitos paslaugos SEO kaina.
International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it evacuated patients and staff from a hospital in the area as the fighting got closer, and that tens of thousands of people were trapped between the frontlines and the Turkish border.
A Syrian NGO operating in the area said the latest assault by IS had displaced 20,000 more people toward Turkey.
The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization present in Azaz, said the IS advance had caused more than half the residents of a camp for 8,500 internally displaced persons to move elsewhere. It said people were “terrified for their lives”.
Around 160,000 people are trapped in Azaz, unable to flee while Turkey’s border remains closed and exit roads have been blocked, the IRC said.
The Observatory said the fighting had killed 30 rebel fighters and 11 members of Islamic State.
In April, Islamic State militants seized another strategic town near the Turkish border from rebel factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
Their advances on Friday encroach on a corridor of rebel-held territory that leads from the Turkish border down toward Aleppo city, which is divided between insurgent and government control. (Courtesy Reuters)