BEIRUT: At least 22 people were killed yesterday when a car bomb exploded in front of a mosque in Daraa province of southern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based monitoring group said the death toll for the bombing in the rebel-controlled town of Namar was likely to rise because of the high number of serious injuries. Among the dead were a woman and a child.
In northern Syria, the group reported 10 people killed when regime helicopters dropped explosive-packed “barrel bombs” on Aleppo city. The attacks targeted the Bab Al Nairab district of the Old City and the southern Salahin neighbourhood.
North of Aleppo city, the Observatory said jihadists from the Islamic State group extended their advances, seizing Baghaydin village near the border with Turkey.
On Wednesday, IS fighters captured eight villages in the area between Aleppo and the border from rival rebel groups. Those advances came after clashes that killed at least 40 fighters from rebel groups, as well as 12 IS fighters, according to the Observatory.
The successes open the way for IS to move towards two strategic prizes — Azaz and Marea. Marea is a stronghold of the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist groups that is among those fighting against IS.
Azaz sits next to a border crossing with Turkey, which would be a valuable asset as IS seeks to expand its self-declared “caliphate” in the territory it holds in Syria and Iraq.
IS emerged from Al Qaeda’s one-time branch in Iraq, and initially fought alongside Syria’s opposition, including more moderate rebels and Al Nusra fighters. But its abuses and harsh brand of religion prompted a backlash from rebel groups that pushed it out of many of opposition-held areas earlier this year.
One analyst warned yesterday that the fate of Syria’s “Western-backed opposition in northern Syria hangs quite literally on a knife-edge” as IS advances in northern Aleppo and regime forces advance in Aleppo city.
In an opinion piece published on CNN’s website, Charles Lister of the Brookings Doha Centre said Syria’s rebels were facing an “existential threat”. Lister said IS was likely to move into Azaz, cutting rebel supply lines to Syria, and into Marea, from which it could launch attacks on rebel-held parts of Aleppo city.