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Airstrikes Hit Syria's Aleppo          09/24 12:53

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Airstrikes have targeted rural Aleppo in northern Syria 
Sunday for the first time in months since a cease-fire took hold in the 
province, killing one, activists and a war monitoring group said.

   Also Sunday, the Central Military Media, affiliated with the Syrian 
government, reported that Iranian drones successfully struck vehicles of the 
Islamic State group along the Syria-Iraq border in the south. The report didn't 
say when the strike occurred, but showed purported footage of it.

   Previously, the U.S-led coalition had downed Iranian drones in the area, 
considering them hostile because they dropped ammunition near a base where U.S. 
troops operated alongside allied Syrian opposition fighters. Since the two 
strikes in June, one of two U.S. bases in the area has shut down after Syrian 
and allied forces essentially cut off access to it, foiling plans to use the 
area as a launch pad for operations in eastern Syria.

   Meanwhile, Syrian media reported that government and allied troops have 
seized Maadan, a town north of Deir el-Zour city and south of Raqqa, which has 
been scene to intense fighting with Islamic State militants. State TV 
al-Ikhbariya filmed from inside the town, showing plumes of black smoke rising 
into the sky. The TV reporter said the town, which links the militant group's 
two strongholds now under attack, served as a key station for IS oil transport 
and distribution.

   The report hailed the capture of the town a day earlier as a major victory 
for the pro-government troops, saying they have now rid the western bank of the 
Euphrates river of the militant group and secured the road from Deir el-Zour to 
Aleppo.

   Seizing Maadan comes amid a government offensive advancing on Deir el-Zour 
city. The capture of Maadan, 70 km (43 miles) west of Deir el-Zour, also brings 
the pro-Syrian forces closer to Raqqa city, where the U.S.-led coalition is 
backing a campaign against IS.

   Elsewhere, warplanes continued Sunday to pound Syria's rural Idlib and Hama, 
where insurgents led by an al-Qaida-linked group began an offensive against 
government troops in the area. The Syrian Civil Defense said one person was 
killed in Aleppo bombing, which it said targeted a cow farm.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 40 
insurgents were killed in airstrikes Saturday on a village in northern Idlib. 
Rami Abdurrahman, the head of the Observatory, said the airstrikes targeted a 
base in Mardkih that belongs to Faylaq al-Sham, a fighting group that had 
agreed to the cease-fire. The group posted a video a day before the airstrike 
showing its fighters preparing a mortar attack on government areas north of 
Hirbnafsah in Hama.

   The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said its rescuers 
came under attack Saturday from airstrikes as they were carrying out search and 
rescue operations in Mardikh. A video posted online by the group shows one of 
their volunteers injured in the attack.

   A "de-escalation" deal reached in May has dramatically reduced the violence 
in most of Syria. Al-Qaida-linked militants launched an offensive earlier this 
week against government forces in northern Hama, prompting an intense 
Russia-backed aerial campaign against Hama and Idlib. Sunday's airstrikes in 
Aleppo appeared to have targeted Faylaq al-Sham bases in the province, 
according to Abdurrahman.


(KA)

 
 
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