Kurdish-led forces push back IS in northeast Syria: monitor

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Kurdish-led forces backed by international air strikes have advanced to within a few kilometres (miles) of a key Islamic State group stronghold in northeastern Syria, a monitor said on Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were now just five kilometres (three miles) from the town of Al-Shadadi in Hasakeh province.

The advance comes on the third day of a major offensive by the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.

The group has taken a series of villages and also cut two key IS supply routes in the region, one from Al-Shadadi to Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, and a second from the town to Raqa, the group’s de facto Syrian capital.

The Observatory said SDF fighters had also taken the Kibabeh oil field to the northeast of Al-Shadadi, after heavy fighting and multiple air strikes by the US-led coalition fighting IS.

The offensive has prompted the families of some IS fighters in Al-Shadadi to flee south to Deir Ezzor province, most of which is controlled by the jihadists, the Observatory said.

The SDF are also engaged in a major operation in Aleppo province further west, where they have seized key territory from rebel forces, angering neighbouring Turkey.

Ankara considers the Kurdish component of the SDF to be the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outlawed group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Turkey has shelled SDF positions in Aleppo province since Saturday, but intensified its artillery fire overnight and targeted new areas held by Kurdish forces, the Observatory said.

For the first time, the shelling hit the area’s main Kurdish town, Afrin, killing two civilians and wounding 28.

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