Despite withdrawing much of its fighting force from northern Aleppo, the Islamic State managed to retake 7 villages from Syrian insurgents in northern Aleppo today.
With rebels fully expelled from al-Ra’i after temporarily entering the border town a few days ago, ISIS fighters have now also regained control over Tall al-Ahmar, Al-Raghibiyah, Al-Shabaniyah, Mazra’at at-Shahin, Tall Battal ash Shamali, Qasajik and Al-Azatiyah; all the aforementioned villages are located within a few kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border.
Effectively, the frontline has been push back to the eastern outskirts of Dudiyan, a town currently held by forces loyal to Jaish al-Mujahideen, a coalition of Islamist rebel groups.
Rebels in northern Aleppo, also known as the Azaz pocket, have suffered heavy casualties on two flanks in recent months as they continue to battle both ISIS and Kurdish forces.
Jaish al-Mujahideen is otherwise heavily backed by the artillery units of the Turkish Army and enjoys some support from U.S. coalition bomber jets.
The entire rebel-held area is cut off from rebel mainland in Idlib and western Aleppo, following a government offensive in February 2016.
Meanwhile, ISIS is under pressure at Manbij as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue their push to seize the city and are making steady gains towards its central districts.