THE LEVANT NEWS — BEIRUT: ISIS fighters stormed a Syrian town held by Kurdish-led forces near Raqqa city Monday, part of a wider offensive by the militants two days after their de facto capital was hit by some of the heaviest U.S.-led airstrikes in the conflict.
The Kurdish YPG militia said it was fighting to expel ISIS fighters who had attacked the town of Ain Issa, which was only captured from them two weeks ago with aerial support from the U.S.-led military alliance.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group that reports on the war, said ISIS forces had taken the town and areas around it some 50 km (30 miles) north of Raqqa city. Airstrikes at the weekend destroyed seven bridges over waterways in Raqqa, which is bordered to the south by the Euphrates river, it said.
Monday’s attack on Ain Issa was part of a coordinated ISIS offensive on YPG positions that also targeted the northeastern province of Hassakeh, bordering Turkey to the north and Iraq to the south, YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said.
The YPG has been the only notable partner to date on the ground in Syria for the U.S.-led alliance battling to eliminate ISIS in Syria and northern Iraq, where the group has declared a “caliphate” to rule over all Muslims.
Ain Issa, one of the YPG-held areas targeted Monday, sits on a major east-west highway that runs all the way from Aleppo in the west to the Iraqi city of Mosul.
YPG-led forces said they had captured Ain Issa on June 23 in part of an offensive that drove deep into ISIS’ stronghold of Raqqa province. They also said they had captured the northern town of Tal Abyad at the Turkish border.
The World Food Program and local partners delivered 2,000 food rations to Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen families in Tal Abyad last Thursday, enough to last 10,000 people for a month, the U.N. agency said. ISIS’ retreat allowed access to the area for the first time in more than eight months, it said.
In the last two days, ISIS have attacked YPG-held positions near the northeastern city of Hassakeh, which is divided between government and YPG control, and in the Jabal Abdul Aziz mountain range southwest of the city, Nasir Haj Mansour, a Kurdish official in Hassakeh province, said.
Hassakeh is important in the battle against ISIS for reasons including its location at the border with territory controlled by the group in Iraq.
The Observatory said ISIS fighters had seized villages from YPG control in the Jabal Abdul Aziz area. It said the ISIS offensive stretched all the way from Hassakeh province in the north east to the town of Sarin in the north western Aleppo province.