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Airstrikes 'kill IS commander' at northern Aleppo hospital Open in fullscreen

Rami Sweid

Airstrikes 'kill IS commander' at northern Aleppo hospital

The Nusra Front has been fighting around Aleppo [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 June, 2015

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Coalition forces' airstrikes are reportedly inflicting heavy losses for the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

Air raids by US-led forces have killed Abd al-Karim Hilal, a local commander of Islamic State group fighters, sources have told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

The airstrikes, some 20km north of Aleppo city, close to the Turkish border, are also understood to have killed at least 20 other IS fighters using a municipal building in Sawran as a headquarters.

The aerial campaign has provided an unprecedented level of for the Syrian opposition forces engaged in ongoing battles with IS group fighters around the Azaz district.

The IS group took control of much of the area in May.

The sources added that the coalition had targeted Sawran's hospital, which had also been commandeered by IS.

This is understood to be the first time that the international coalition against IS has provided air support for the main Syrian opposition forces, although they have done so for Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria.

According to opposition sources in Aleppo province, the airstrikes came after three days of meetings between representatives of opposition factions and their counterparts from the YPG forces which control the neighbouring Afrin district, 35km from Sawran.

Discussions reportedly included the possibility of YPG forces joining the fight against IS in the rest of Aleppo province, which the Kurdish militia has offered to do. Other opposition groups remain unconvinced, say the sources. There have been tensions over the past two weeks between the YPG and the opposition over deployment in the YPG-controlled Shaykh Maqsud district, north of Aleppo city centre.

Too many sides?

The complicated military situation in Syria and the fight against IS on so many fronts at the same time is making the international coalition's mission all the more difficult.

Since it began launching airstrikes against IS in Syria in September, the coalition has taken pains not to target IS forces which are in direct combat with the regime's forces.

Nor has it previously provided air cover to opposition forces fighting IS around Aleppo, Daraa and in eastern Qalamun, as the Nusra Front - an affiliate of al-Qaeda which the US refuses to be seen to support - is fighting alongside the main opposition.

However, the coalition has provided frequent air support to Kurdish forces. In northern Aleppo, coordination with the YPG is seen as making coalition air support more likely - as long as Nusra is kept out of the picture.

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