October 26, 2016

Turkey and US bomb ISIL positions inside Syria

Air raids destroyed a fifth-century Church in Daret Azza village, said activists [Reuters/FILE]

Turkish and US-led coalition forces have struck Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets north of the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least 27 fighters, according to state-run Anadolu Agency and other media reports.

Turkish artillery and rocket launchers fired into Syria while warplanes from the US-led coalition carried out three separate air campaigns, Anadolu said on Monday citing military sources.

Five fortified defence posts and two gun posts were also destroyed in the attack less than 10km from Turkey’s Syria border.

Turkish and coalition forces have carried out a series of such strikes recently to prevent further attacks on the Turkish border town of Kilis, which lies just across the frontier from ISIL-controlled territory in Syria, and has been regularly struck by rockets in recent weeks.

The US and Turkey have for months been discussing a military plan to drive ISIL from the border.

Elsewhere in Aleppo, fighting continued as government-backed armed groups said they took back two villages north of the battered Syrian city from ISIL.

Government’s deadly airborne raids also destroyed a fifth-century church, the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites in the village of Daret Azza, according to Syrian activists.

The fighting was focused around a strategic area that leads in and out of the rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.

Claims and counterclaims

On Saturday, ISIL launched offensive in the east of the country in Deir Az Zor, but Syrian government troops fought back, and claimed to have retaken a hospital and a dormitory from the armed group which has seized territory in Syria and Iraq.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, said: “It’s been a battle back and forth in a small pocket of Deir Az Zor city under the control of the government.

“However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group is saying that the 95 percent of the city is under ISIL control which is in an oil-rich area.”

Meanwhile, John Kerry met King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia and its Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign minister, as part of diplomatic push aimed at ending the five-year-old war in Syria.

Kerry will head to Vienna to push for more international cooperation on ending the conflict that has left more than 240,000 people. He will also go to Brussels for meetings with NATO leaders.

A tenuous ceasefire has been in place since February brokered by Russia and the US, but Syria has continued to bomb rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo.

Nearly 300 people have been killed in the recent upsurge of violence.

Once Syria’s commercial heartland, Aleppo is now divided between the government-held west and the rebel-controlled east.

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