Daesh militants entered a major Syrian opposition stronghold in the country’s north on Saturday, clashing with rebels on the edges of the town as the extremist group builds on its most significant advance near the Turkish border in two years — even as it loses ground elsewhere in the country and in Iraq.
The town of Marea, just north of Aleppo city, has long been considered a bastion of relatively moderate Syrian revolutionary forces fighting to topple Assad. The Daesh assault underlined the weakness of the groups fighting under the loose banner of the so-called Free Syrian Army that have been struggling to survive.
More than 160,000 civilians have been trapped by the fighting, which also forced the evacuation of one of the few remaining hospitals in the area, run by the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders.
On Saturday, Daesh fighters staged two suicide bombings targeting “opposition forces” near Marea, the terror group said via its news agency, Aamaq.
Following the suicide bombings, Daesh militants entered Marea and fighting began inside the town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition media outfit that tracks Syria’s civil war.
Dr. Abdel Rahman Alhafez, who heads one of the last remaining hospitals in Marea, said the town was encircled and his hospital under threat since Friday. “We need urgent protection for the hospital or a way out,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
Syrian army warplanes and helicopters, meanwhile, pounded other opposition-held towns in Aleppo province on Saturday, putting a further strain on embattled rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Meanwhile, Yemeni authorities on Saturday arrested seven Daesh suspects, including one “Westerner” in Aden, a police officer told AFP.
“We arrested seven Daesh members, among them a Western Muslim, in Mansura” district of Aden, said officer Munir Al-Yafie, who took part in the raid, without giving further details.
Source: Arab News