Turkish-backed Syrian rebels seized several villages from Islamic State on Saturday near Turkey’s border with Syria, in further advances against the jihadist group, the insurgents and monitors said. The Hamza Brigade, a group fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, said it had taken control of Arab Ezza, a village near which Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on Friday.
A source in the Failaq al-Sham rebel group said FSA factions had also captured the villages of Fursan, Lilawa, Kino and Najma just south of Arab Ezza. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed that the rebels had taken several villages.
Turkey last week launched its first major incursion into Syria since the civil war began five years ago. Its tanks and warplanes are backing rebels who are fighting separately against both Islamic State and the Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara’s offensive has alarmed the West, with Washington saying that action aimed at the YPG, part of a U.S.-backed coalition also fighting against Islamic State, risks undermining the broader goal of ridding Syria of the jihadist group.
Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies began the Aug. 24 offensive by seizing Jarablus, a Syrian frontier town, from Islamic State, before turning their sights on what the army said were YPG positions. The YPG denied they were there. Arab Ezza is about 30 km (20 miles) west of Jarablus.