Thousands of civilians have fled an offensive by the Daesh group in northern Syria into territory controlled by a US-backed Kurdish-led alliance, a monitor said on Sunday.
The offensive against the towns of Marea and Azaz threatens to overrun the last swathe of territory in the east of Aleppo province held by rebels and bring Daesh to the doorstep of the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
At least 29 civilians have been killed since IS launched the assault early on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It came as the jihadists were under attack by the Kurdish-led alliance in Raqqa province further east and by the army and allied militia around Fallujah in neighboring Iraq.
“More than 6,000 civilians, most of them women and children, were able to flee areas in the countryside of Aleppo province... especially from Marea town and Sheikh Issa village” to its west, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
“The displaced arrived last night in areas in the west and north of Aleppo province under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
An anesthetist who fled Marea with his family after five relatives were killed in shelling said late Saturday that just four medical staff remained in the town’s only hospital.
He said Daesh surrounded the hospital for 10 hours on Friday, injuring two members of staff and forcing doctors to operate on one of them without electricity after Daesh cut off the hospital’s generator.
The SDF is an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters that Washington regards as the most effective force on the ground in Syria against Daesh terrorists. Heavy fighting raged early Sunday on the outskirts of Marea and around two villages on the supply route to the town of Azaz on the Turkish border to the northeast.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria has recruited thousands of fighters, including teenagers, and taken territory from government forces in a successful offensive in the north, illustrating how the cease-fire put in place by Russia and the United States to weaken the militants has in many ways backfired.
Source: Arab News