ISIS captures 5 villages from ‘moderates’ as Al-Nusra continues shelling Aleppo – Russia’s MoD
In Saturday's press release the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria reported that the Islamic State terror group (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has retaken five villages in the vicinity of Azaz in northwestern Syria, roughly 20 miles of the city of Aleppo.
“Militants of the Daesh terrorist organization carried out the attack on the Free Syrian Army positions near the town of Azaz, Aleppo province and established control over [several] settlements,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a daily bulletin. The statement added that the terrorist advances were halted by the Kurdish militia in the vicinity of Ain Dakna.
Besides the IS faction, another equally notorious terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusra continues to attack government-controlled areas. According to the Center, Al-Nusra is continuing to assault Aleppo using rocket launchers and mortars.
“Units of al-Nusra Front international terrorist organization continue their provocative actions aimed at disrupting the ceasefire. In the past 24 hours [the group] attacked the settlement of Handrat, Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsood and Halidia, as well as Nayrab airport, with mortars and multiple rocket launcher systems,” the ministry said.
At least four civilians were killed in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, including two children, SANA reports. The shelling injured at least 18 others. Additional casualties were reported in al-Midan residential neighborhood and al-Ashrafiyeh neighborhood.
Earlier this week, the Russian General Staff warned that Al-Nusra is receiving daily arms shipments across the border from Turkey. The Russian side estimates that more than 6,000 terrorists are now running freely in the Aleppo province.
As terrorist resilience to the government-led forces continues around Aleppo, another three settlements joined the reconciliation agreement in that province, bringing the total number of towns observing the truce to 125. Sixty armed opposition groups have now officially joined the Syria-wide ceasefire regime. According to the latest bulletin, only two violations of truce by ceasefire parties have been registered in Damascus province Friday-Saturday.
The ceasefire introduced on February 27 does not apply to internationally-recognized terror groups such as IS and Al-Nusra Front, which means strikes can be delivered against their outposts. The Russian reconciliation center noted that Russian and Syrian air force have not carried out any sorties against the opposition groups which have joined the truce.
Despite their close tie to recognized terror groups and reported massacres, the groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham Jaish al-Islam have been spared from blacklist and are even considered by Washington as parties to the truce, although neither of them ever applied to join the ceasefire. According to the bulleting, Jaish al-Islam has yet again shelled the town of Marj al-Sultan as well as government positions near the village of Harasta in the east of Damascus.
Amid the Islamic State and Al-Nusra offensive this week in close proximity to Turkish border, the UN refugee agency reported that some 165,000 civilians are trapped between near the town of Azaz between the violence in northern Aleppo and Turkey.
“The UNHCR is deeply concerned about the plight of some 165,000 displaced persons reportedly massing near the Syrian town of Azaz in northern Syria,” said the UN refugee agency, as it called on Ankara to opens its borders. “People have started to flee due to heavy fighting in northern Aleppo. Fleeing civilians are being caught in cross-fire and are facing challenges to access medical services, food, water and safety.”
The UNHCR says it has alerted Turkey of the situation and reiterates the rights to refugee protection and safe passage, as enshrined in international law.
The Human Rights Watch, on Friday also lashed out against Turkish unwillingness to help refugees get to safety.
“While the world speaks about fighting ISIS, their silence is deafening when it comes to the basic rights of those fleeing ISIS,” the NGO said. “The fact Turkey is generously hosting more than 2.5 million Syrians does not give it a right to shut its border to other endangered Syrians.”