The Islamic State group advanced to the closest it has been to the Syrian city of Aleppo at dawn today, after hours of ferocious fighting, a monitor reported.
“Dozens of combatants were killed on both sides,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
After a night of fierce clashes, IS militants had driven out rebels from the localities of Tall Qrah, Tall Soussin, Kafar Qares and the base of Madrasat al-Mushat by 5:00 am (0200 GMT), he said.
The seizure of these positions brought the jihadists to about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the front line where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are positioned, including the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone.
“IS has never been so close to the city of Aleppo, and this is its biggest advance towards” the country’s pre-war commercial capital, said Abdel Rahman, whose Britain-based group relies on a network of sources on the ground across Syria.
The Islamic State group claimed territory mostly to the northeast of Aleppo, where it controls towns and regions including Al-Bab, one of its strongholds.
The conflict began as an uprising against Assad’s rule in 2011 but has splintered into a multi-faceted civil war involving government troops, Western-backed rebels, jihadists and Kurdish forces.
More than 240,000 people have been killed, with four million more forced to flee the country.