500 rebels cross Turkish border towards Syrian town of Azaz: Observatory
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
In this photo provided by Turkey's Islamic aid group of IHH, Syrians fleeing the conflicts in Azaz region, walk at the Bab al-Salam border gate, Syria, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. AP PhotoAt least 500 rebels on Feb. 17 crossed the Turkish border heading for the Syrian town of Azaz in northern Aleppo province, a monitor said, where opposition forces have suffered setbacks at the hands of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces.
“At least 500 rebels have crossed the Bab al-Salam border crossing on their way to the town of Azaz, from which they want to help the insurgents in the face of gains made by Kurdish forces in the north of the province,” the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel, told AFP.
They include rebels as well as Islamist fighters, all of them armed, he added.
This is the second time in days a large group of rebels has crossed the border, after almost 350 passed through the Atme border crossing on Feb. 14 armed with heavy and light weapons.
Opposition forces have lost ground to government troops in northern Aleppo province since they began a major offensive in the former rebel bastion backed by Russian air strikes.
Pressing their advantage, YPG forces, which is the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), have been taking ground in the fragmented region, most notably the city of Tal Rifaat, as they seek to carve out their own autonomous state.
The rebels now hold only the town of Azaz, not far from the Turkish border, and to the south Marea, which is currently almost encircled by YPG forces to the west and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters to the east.
Turkey refers to the PYD and YPG as a terrorist organization as it sees it as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Alarmed by the YPG gains close to its border, Turkey, which supports the groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, continued shelling their positions in Syria for a fifth day.