Islamic State has seized new territory from Syrian rebels in northern Syria, advancing in an area where Turkey and the United States are planning to open a new front against the group in coordination with insurgents on the ground. The ultra-radical Islamist group and a monitor said it had seized several villages as it stepped up an offensive in northern Aleppo province,
in a blow to rebels who are likely partners for Ankara and Washington in any ground campaign. In an attack that began on Wednesday night, Islamic State had also mostly encircled the rebel-held town of Marea, some 20 km (12 miles) from the border, the group and a rebel commander in the area said. “If its progress continues, the northern countryside of Aleppo could fall,” the rebel told Reuters. “If Marea falls, it means the fall of an important symbol of the groups fighting Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group tracking the war, said IS had wrested control of five villages including two near the Turkish border from other Syrian insurgents.