Around noon on Friday, ISIS fighters recaptured Dudiyan in northern Aleppo after skirmishes forced Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions to withdraw from the town.
The FSA-linked ‘Sultan Murad’ and ‘Suqur al-Jabal’ brigades spearheaded the retreat while the majority of ISIS’ fighting force consisted of the so-called ‘Caliphate Cubs’, the Islamic State’s very own child soldier division.
This town was otherwise seized by Syrian rebels last week, and has changed hands a total of 12 times in 2016 alone, making it the most frequently contested town in all of Syria.
Dudiyan has been difficult for both parties to maintain control of due to neighbouring villages enjoying fire control over the town.
Meanwhile, ISIS is also attempting to advance on Mare’, another rebel-held town in the Azaz pocket. However, all Islamic State attacks have been repelled by rebel forces thus far.
This region represents vital border territory with Turkey, a country often used by Islamist factions to smuggle weapons and foreign fighters into Syria.
Turkey is backing local FSA groups against ISIS through both logistical and artillery support; however, U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in this region have dropped dramatically due to Washington increasing its aerial bombardment over Manbij instead.