The Islamic State advanced against rival insurgents in northern Syria on Sunday, capturing areas close to a border crossing with Turkey and threatening their supply route to the city of Aleppo, fighters and a group monitoring the war said.
The Islamic State captured the town of Soran Azaz and two nearby villages, giving it the ability to move along a road leading north to the Bab al-Salam crossing between the Syrian province of Aleppo and the Turkish province of Kilis, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain that tracks the war through a network of contacts in Syria.
The loss of Soran Azaz is a blow to northern rebels in the Levant Front because it sits on an important weapons supply route, two alliance fighters said.
“The main supply line between Turkey and Aleppo will be severely affected,” Abu Bakr, a rebel alliance field commander, said in an online message.
The Levant Front was created in Aleppo in an effort to forge unity among factions in Syria that have often fought one another as well as the Syrian Army, undermining the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels said the gains by the Islamic State had upset plans for a wider offensive to seize government-controlled parts of Aleppo, which was being prepared ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, starting in mid-June.
Residents in eastern Aleppo said convoys of rebel fighters were heading back to areas in the Soran countryside to repel the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Government forces hold the western part of the city. The Islamic State’s next stop could be the city of Azaz in Syria, which is just a few miles farther northeast and is a gateway to the border crossing, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Azaz, flooded with thousands of refugees fleeing violence across northern Syria, has also been a major arms route and commercial thoroughfare for hundreds of trucks carrying Turkish goods to rebel-held areas in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib.
The Islamic State holds territory across Syria and Iraq and has advanced rapidly in parts of Syria in recent weeks, capturing the central city of Palmyra and the last border crossing between Syria and Iraq in the east.
The Islamic State is fighting against the rival insurgents, the Syrian military and Kurdish forces in the four-year-old conflict.
Kurdish forces have been battling the Islamic State in Hasaka, a strategic province because of its position next to territory in Iraq held by the Islamic State.
The Islamic State appeared to be losing land around Tal Abyad, a town north of its stronghold, the city of Raqqa. Tal Abyad is one of the few towns along the border with Turkey that remains under Islamic State control, Kurdish and Arab tribal sources said.(New York Times)