Clashes between ISIL, Syria rebels kill dozens near Turkey: Monitor

Clashes between ISIL, Syria rebels kill dozens near Turkey: Monitor

BEIRUT - Reuters
Clashes between ISIL, Syria rebels kill dozens near Turkey: Monitor

A fighter from Jaish al-Izzah, part of the Free Syrian Army, takes part in a military display as part of a graduation ceremony at a camp in the north of Hama province, Syria May 28, 2016 - REUTERS photo

Fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syrian rebels near the Turkish border has killed dozens of people in the last two days, as ISIL militants keep up an offensive that has led to rapid territorial gains, a monitoring group said on May 28. 

Fighters from the militant group entered the rebel-held town of Marea early on May 28, using at least two car bombs in the assault, and clashes continued later in the day, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. 

An advance by the jihadists on May 27 that cut Marea off from another key insurgent-held town, Azaz, was their biggest territorial gain in the northern province of Aleppo for two years, the Observatory said. 

ISIL has been battling rebel factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) since late last year, but clashes have intensified in recent weeks. 

The fighting in the past two days has killed at least 27 civilians as well as 41 combatants, the Observatory said. 

A U.S.-led coalition carried out air raids on ISIL positions in one of the villages that the jihadists had captured from rebels, it said. 

ISIL on May 27 encroached from the east on a narrow area of rebel control connected to the Turkish border, through which the rebels have received support. 

To the west of that rebel-held area is territory under the control of the Kurdish YPG militia and its allies, who have been fighting the rebels but also separately battling ISIL. 

One of the Kurdish-allied groups took over a village west of Marea on May 28, apparently in a rare agreement with the FSA rebels, the Observatory reported. 

The move could bring the Kurdish-allied group, Jaysh al-Thuwwar, into confrontation with ISIL in the area. It also further erodes rebel control there from the west. 

The United States is backing the YPG and its allies in an offensive against ISIL in the northern countryside of neighbouring Raqqa province, which is home to the group's de facto capital, Raqqa city. 

Washington has also supported FSA factions.