Islamic State withdraws from northwest Syria frontlines
An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobani during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 Photograph: (Getty)
The sudden withdrawal from villages around the rebel-held town of Marea points to the pressure Islamic State is feeling from offensives being waged by other enemies further east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Islamic State had managed to besiege the rebel-held town of Marea in a significant advance late last month, stranding thousands of civilians there and prompting a US-led coalition to air drop weapons to rebels, rebel sources said.
Rebel fighters in Marea broke the siege today when they captured the village of Kafr Kalbin on the road linking Marea with Azaz, 20 km (12 miles) to the northwest at the border with Turkey. The advance was preceded by a rebel statement saying they were uniting their ranks.
"It seems they (IS) can't keep several fronts open at the same time. It is a strategic area, they were on the verge of entering Azaz," observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. The opposition source said Islamic State had withdrawn from the area quickly, and Free Syrian Army(FSA) factions had filled the void.
FSA rebels fighting Islamic State north of Aleppo have received military assistance from states opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
Their battle with Islamic State is separate to one being waged further east by a US-backed group, the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Kurdish Yek?ney?n Parastina Gel(YPG) militia. The Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes, has also advanced against Islamic State since last week.
The FSA rebels are fighting separate conflicts with both the SDF and Assad, their main enemy.