Extremist militants launch attacks on 2 areas in Syria

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-09 05:36:37|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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DAMASCUS, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The al-Qaida-linked militants and the Islamic State (IS) group separately launched offensives on two fronts in eastern and northwestern Syria, a war monitor reported on Tuesday.

The IS militants launched a counter-offensive against the advancing Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in areas in the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria between Sunday and Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It added that the attack lasted from Sunday night to Monday morning when the IS militants took advantage of a sandstorm hitting the area.

A total of 23 members of the SDF were killed and many more wounded in the attack, the Observatory reported Tuesday, adding that the IS militants couldn't hold still to areas they advanced to and eventually retreated due to the lack of fighters.

The IS militants are still present in the towns of Baghous and Sousseh, their last two redoubts in the eastern Euphrates region.

According to the Observatory, the IS organization is in its last stages amid a state of weakness.

Around 12,000 people, including a few hundreds of IS militants, fled the last IS-held pocket since late last month, according to the Observatory.

Still, the Observatory said the IS group is desperately fighting back, noting that in tandem with the counter-offensive in the eastern Euphrates, sleeper cells of IS launched simultaneous attacks in Raqqa city in northern Syria against the SDF, killing five of them.

It's worth noting that the SDF, with the help of the U.S.-led coalition, succeeded to strip IS of key areas, such as Raqqa in 2017, as the city was the de facto capital of the terror-labeled group.

The Kurdish-led group has also been on a wide-scale offensive against IS in the eastern Euphrates since last September, during which they managed to take some important IS strongholds and now besieging the group in two towns.

On the other side, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the umbrella group of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, has been on a wide-scale offensive against the Turkey-backed rebels since the beginning of January 2019.

But unlike the IS group, which is retreating, this terror-designated group succeeded over the past week to strip the Turkey-backed rebels of the National Liberation Front (NLF) of the western countryside of Aleppo province in northwestern Syria.

On Tuesday, the Observatory said the HTS has opened new fronts with other rebel groups in the countryside of Idlib, which is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria, as well as in the northern countryside of the central province of Hama.

It said the group captured 20 towns and villages in their offensive on Tuesday.

With the offensive of the HTS in Aleppo countryside as well as in the countryside of Hama and Idlib, the Observatory said the Syrian Army recently sent reinforcements to central and northern Syria of hundreds of soldiers.

This infighting has its significance as the areas that have fallen to the al-Qaida-linked group are part of the deal of demilitarized zones reached between Russian and Turkey last September.

According to the deal, Turkey should have pushed the al-Qaida-linked rebels and those affiliated as terrorist groups out of the zone, which didn't happen.

Meanwhile, the state news agency SANA said Tuesday that after the al-Qaida-linked groups stripped the Turkey-backed rebels of the entire western countryside of Aleppo, the group is now working to defeat rival rebel groups in the southern countryside of Idlib.

It said the HTS brought massive reinforcement to the southern countryside of Idlib close to areas controlled by the NLF and allied militants in that area.

SANA said the rival rebel groups were coercing civilians to go out and stage protests in support of the rebels controlling their areas and against the al-Qaida-linked ones.

It said rival rebel groups are terrorizing the civilians in the areas of their clashes.

The official news agency, meanwhile, said that the Syrian army targeted the rebel positions in the southeastern countryside of Idlib as they were attempting to infiltrate to government-held areas.