The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has attacked villages near the only useable road that links the government-controlled cities of Aleppo and Homs, killing many residents, according to Syrian state media and a Britain-based war monitor.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said 52 people, civilians and fighters on both sides, were killed and dozens injured in Thursday’s incidents.
At least 15 were civilians, including five children, and three of them died in execution-style killings, it said.
State-run SANA news agency said that ISIL fighters killed 20 people in the village of Aqarib al-Safi, east of Hama city, before the army and allied militia repulsed the attack.
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The SOHR said ISIL, also known as ISIS, seized Aqarib al-Safi and parts of the nearby village of al-Mabouja as clashes raged on.
ISIL said on social media they had captured Aqarib al-Safi.
Also on Thursday, the US military carried out an air strike against the Syrian pro-government fighters that posed a threat to US-backed fighters in the country’s south, US officials told Reuters news agency.
The US official said on Thursday, the strikes near the town of At Tanf destroyed at least one tank and a bulldozer, and another said it followed warning shots by US aircraft meant to dissuade the fighters from advancing further.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In another Syria-related development, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters has seized 350sq km over the past week in Syria’s Raqqa province, “tightening their noose” on ISIL in an advance to isolate its base of operations, a spokesman for a US-led coalition said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been encircling Raqqa, ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, since November. Last week, its fighters accomplished a major goal by capturing Tabqa, a previously ISIL-held town about 50km west of Raqqa, and a strategic dam nearby.
About 3,000 to 4,000 ISIL fighters are thought to be holed up in Raqqa city where they continue to erect defences against the anticipated assault, Colonel Ryan Dillon told Reuters news agency in a phone interview from Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
“In the last week, the SDF have tightened their noose around ISIL in the northern and eastern and western part of Raqqa,” Dillon said.
Syria’s civil war began in 2011 after mass protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad and has killed hundreds of thousands of people, driven half the country’s population from their homes and dragged in world powers.
Syrians’ suffering persists after returning to former ISIL-held town
Source: News agencies
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