Beirut (AFP) – At least 47 fighters of a Kurdish-Arab force backed by Washington-led anti-jihadist coalition were killed on Friday and Saturday in ISIS counterattacks in eastern Syria, according to an NGO.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has since September launched an offensive against an ultimate IS reduction in eastern Syria, but their progress is slowed by bad weather, which also hampers the air raids of the international coalition.
The jihadists offer fierce resistance in this pocket near the Iraqi border and regularly launch deadly counter-attacks to defend their small territory in this area of Deir Ezzor province.
Friday and Saturday, they targeted several positions of the SDS, killing 47 fighters, said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (OSDH).
"Saturday at dawn, they launched three separate assaults," told AFP the director of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman.
In his view, the attacks targeted the villages of Al-Bahra and Gharanij, as well as an area near the Al-Tanak oil field, in a state of activity but also used as a military stance by the FDS.
On Saturday alone, 29 SDF fighters were killed, according to Abdel Rahman. He said that in two days of clashes, 39 jihadists perished.
A spokesman for the FDS, Mustefa Bali, confirmed on his Twitter account "a series of attacks" of the IS but assured that the "terrorists" had suffered loss of life and retreated.
Bali said the fighting, led by the SDFs "with the support of the international coalition aviation," lasted all day.
On its usual Telegram channels, the IS has issued a statement about fighting near the villages of Al-Bahra and Gharanij.
– Raids "very limited" –
After a meteoric rise in 2014 and the conquest of vast territories in Syria and Iraq, the IS was rolled by several offensives launched in these two countries.
The SDS had been forced in late October to retreat and cede all positions previously won in the sector, the jihadists having already launched at the time deadly counter-attacks.
Shortly after, they had announced a temporary halt to their offensive, due to bombing by their great enemy Turkey, against Kurdish military positions in northern Syria. Ten days later, however, the operation was restarted.
The coalition continues its air raids against the IS pocket, which includes the localities of Hajine, Soussa and Al-Chaafa, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Since Friday, at least 17 civilians have perished, according to the OSDH, in coalition strikes targeting the Reduced.
Contacted by AFP, Colonel Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition, assured not to have received information about civilian casualties. He spoke of coalition raids "very limited because of the weather".
Triggered in 2011 with the repression of peaceful demonstrations by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the conflict in Syria has become more complex over the years with the involvement of foreign countries and jihadist groups.
It has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions and refugees.
– "Toxic gases" –
In the north-west of the country, where the ultimate rebel and jihadist stronghold is located, at least nine civilians, including seven children, were killed on Saturday in the regime's artillery fire on Idleb Province, according to a new report. of the OSDH.
The shooting targeted the town of Jarjanaz, located in the "demilitarized zone", the result of an agreement on 17 September between Russia, the regime's ally, and Turkey, the rebel godfather, to separate the insurgent territories of Idleb from government regions in northwestern Syria.
The agreement for a demilitarized zone was to officially come into force in mid-October but in the field some provisions were not respected, and skirmishes regularly punctuate Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebels and jihadists.
Later in the evening, in the neighboring metropolis of Aleppo, held by the regime, about 50 cases of suffocation were reported and the official media accused the insurgents of having led an attack on "toxic gases".
Aleppo Health Services Director Ziad Hajj Taha spoke of a "likely" "chlorine gas" attack while being interrogated by state television.
This is not the first time the state media has accused the rebels of a "toxic gas" attack on Aleppo. On several occasions the regime has itself been accused of conducting lethal chemical attacks against rebel strongholds, which it has always refuted.