August 17, 2014 in Nation/World

Jihadists close in on Syrian rebel stronghold

Bassem Mroue Associated Press
 

BEIRUT – Syria’s Western-backed opposition called on Saturday for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group as the jihadists captured three northern villages, putting them within striking distance of a mainstream rebel stronghold.

Islamic State fighters have overrun nearly a dozen towns and villages in Aleppo province this week, crushing what little resistance they have encountered. Those gains threaten rival factions’ supply lines to neighboring Turkey and squeeze the mainstream armed opposition’s position in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, which is also under assault by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

With the mainstream rebels’ foothold in Aleppo becoming increasingly precarious, the Syrian National Coalition urged the international community to “quickly support the Free Syrian Army with weapons and ammunition” so it could “defend its people.”

The coalition has long appealed for more robust military support from the West. But the group’s appeal Saturday appeared aimed at capitalizing on the recent U.S. aerial intervention in neighboring Iraq, where American military aircraft have targeted the Islamic State group as the militants advanced on the largely autonomous Kurdish region and threatened religious minorities.

But President Barack Obama has long refused demands for similar action in Syria, fearing it could draw the U.S. into an increasingly complex and bloody civil war.

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