U.S.-Backed Fighters in Syria Capture Areas in North From IS

BEIRUT (AP) -
Men inspect a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Sheikh Meskeen near Deraa, Syria, on Thursday. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir)
Men inspect a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Sheikh Meskeen near Deraa, Syria, on Thursday. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir)

A U.S.-backed coalition of rebels in Syria – including Syrian Kurdish, Arab and Christian groups – captured several areas in the country’s north from the Islamic State terror group as government air raids on a rebel-held Damascus suburb killed at least 20 people on Thursday.

Government warplanes and helicopter gunships struck the suburb of Hamouriyeh, which over the past weeks has been subjected to intense government airstrikes like other opposition-held areas near the Syrian capital.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were women and children among the casualties. The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group that tracks the Syrian conflict, said 23 were killed and dozens were wounded. Different death tolls are common in the chaos of Syria’s civil war.

Meanwhile, the advance Thursday of the coalition known as Syria Democratic Forces came as part of a recent rebel push to take control of a major dam and cut supply lines between Islamic State’s strongholds in northern Syria.

The SDF offensive started Wednesday with a push south of the Turkey-Syria border town of Kobani, according to a rebel spokesman, Col. Talal Sillu. On Thursday, coalition fighters advanced five miles, inching closer to their objective – the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River that supplies much of northern Syria with electricity.

“The situation on the ground is excellent,” said Sillu. The rebels are also trying to cut the supply lines between Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa and the group’s stronghold of Manbij. Several villages, farms and weapons were taken in battles with IS, the spokesman said, adding that at least 14 IS fighters have been killed since Wednesday.