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Hama: Syrian resistance takes key town, 3 villages from regime forces

(Zaman Al Wasl)- Syrian Resistance on Monday seized key town in the central Hama province after major attack on an array of regime-held towns, local activists said.

Helfaya town, 17 km (11miles) north of Hama, and three more villages and ten checkpoints fell to rebels control in the northern countryside.

The unexpected advance pushed regime forces and allied National Defense militia to deploy more troops and to demand reinforcement amid fears on the Alawite- dominated villages.

The moderate rebel factions have also pressed to take Tybat al-Imam town, destroying 12 regime armored vehicles and tanks.  

In the Syrian north, Free Syrian Army  pushed deeper into northern Aleppo province on Monday and drew a rebuke from NATO ally the United States, which said it was concerned the battle for territory had shifted away from targeting Islamic State.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter called on Turkey to stay focused on fighting Islamic State militants and not to target Kurdish elements of Syrian rebel forces, which Washington backs. The White House said a continued Turkish push would complicate the fight against Islamic State.

At the start of Turkey's now almost week-long cross-border offensive, Turkish tanks, artillery and warplanes provided Syrian rebel allies with the firepower to capture swiftly the Syrian frontier town of Jarablus from Islamic State militants.

Since then, Turkish forces have mainly pushed into areas controlled by fighters aligned to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition that encompasses the Kurdish YPG militia and which has been backed by Washington to fight the jihadists.

"Turkey is determined to take steps to guarantee its citizens' security at home and in neighboring countries," President Tayyip Erdogan said in a message on the eve of Tuesday's national Victory Day holiday.

Operations would continue until all threats, including from the YPG, were removed, he said.

A group monitoring the tangled, five-year-old conflict in Syria said 41 people were killed by Turkish air strikes as Turkish forces pushed south on Sunday. Turkey denied there were civilian deaths, saying 25 Kurdish militants had been killed. (With Reuters)


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