Over the past 24 hours, ISIS fighters have carried out a remarkable counter-offensive in northern Aleppo, thus fully capturing the villages of Ash Sheikh Reeh, Tilal al-Hussayn and al-Ball from rebel troops.
Several other nearby villages were also temporarily entered by Islamic State militants; however, ISIS was not able to maintain control of these areas.
Meanwhile, another simultaneous ISIS assault took place on the outskirts of the rebel stronghold of Mare’. While ISIS did not actually enter the town, they did capture some points on its near vicinity after carrying out seven bomb attacks at the city’s gates.
These events come as Islamist rebels recently advanced at the Syrian-Turkish border and eventually captured 16 villages along with the border-town of al-Rai.
Given the current frontline situation, ISIS fighters at Tilal al-Hussayn are less than 4 kilometers from reaching the Turkish border, north of the village.
If the Islamic State is able to capture these 4 kilometers of rebel-held territory, it would effectively have rebels in northern Aleppo split in two; one rebel fighting force would remain in the west at Azaz city and one would be captured at the border-town of al-Rai.
Meanwhile, rebels are also under pressure from the west at Azaz as Kurdish militias seem keen to capture the city.
Furthermore, Islamist rebels in northern Aleppo are de facto cut off from their comrades in the Idlib governorate, thus preventing them from receiving reinforcements.