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Following Russian Airstrikes, ISIS Advances on Aleppo

In the wake of Russian airstrikes in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has come within one mile of the northern border of Aleppo, Reuters reported today.

Islamic State is now within 2 km (1 mile) of government-held territory on the northern edge of Aleppo which has suffered widespread damage and disease during the four-year civil war that erupted in the wake of protests against Assad.

The gains achieved by ISIS come as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, have stepped up attacks against rebels in western Syria.

Russian warplanes and warships have been bombarding targets across Syria for 10 days in a campaign which Moscow says is targeting Islamic State fighters who control large parts of eastern Syria, as well as swathes of neighboring Iraq.

But the campaign appears to have mainly struck other rebel groups, some of which had been battling to stop the Islamic State advance across Aleppo province.

One rebel commander quoted by Reuters explicitly connected the Russian airstrikes to the advance of ISIS, saying, “Daesh has exploited the Russian air strikes and the preoccupation of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army in its battles in Hama, and advanced in Aleppo.” Daesh is a derogatory Arabic term for ISIS.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS’s push towards Aleppo marks its biggest advance since last August. ISIS claims to have captured five villages near Aleppo during its current offensive.

In May, Michael Pregent observed that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias seemed content to leave ISIS in place without defeating it, saying, “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.”

Iran’s top general in Syria, Hossein Hamedani, was killed yesterday in a battle with anti-regime forces near Aleppo.

[Photo: Maria Bell / YouTube ]