Renewed fighting between the Islamic State (Isis) and Syrian insurgents has left at least 47 people dead around the rebel-held town of Marea, around 20km from the Turkish border. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the area is where the US and Turkey are planning to open a new front against the Islamic militant group.
The area falls within a "safe zone" that Turkey said it would set up in northern Syria last month. In the fierce clashes that took place near Marea in the northern countryside of Aleppo, at least seven IS fighters were killed by rebel fighters of the Shamiya Front, and several others were taken hostage. They also destroyed three IS vehicles, according to ARA News. The Syrian rebels also seized heavy machine guns from the Islamic militants, after many retreated from the area after "heavy losses" in clashes on Friday, 4 September.
Shamiya commander Salih al-Zein said: "Our fighters repelled a major attack by ISIS militants on the strategic town of Marea. We've destroyed three Isis vehicles, killed seven militants and took 11 others as hostages.
"The terrorist group tried to infiltrate into Marea by launching suicide attacks. But we destroyed the explosive vehicles before entering the town," al-Zein said in an ARA news report.
In the joint operation against Isis, several Syrian rebel factions joined the Shamiya Front and attacked Isis-held villages of Harbal, Sandaf, Kafrah and Harjal, north of Aleppo. In recent days, the US-led air campaign fighting IS in Syria has carried out strikes against the group near Marea, according to the Pentagon.
The safe zone was set up to stretch for 68 miles along the Turkey-Syria border, from the town of Jarabulus to Marea, and will be about 40 miles deep, reaching to the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria's second city. Under a deal agreed last week by Barack Obama and Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, US and coalition air strikes will embark on an offensive to clear the area of Isis fighters.