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Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate and allied jihadists seize a set of strategic hilltops

Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate and allied jihadists seized a set of strategic hilltops held by pro-regime forces in the country’s north, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants battled government loyalists and overran three hilltops yesterday in the Al-Eis area south of Aleppo city.

“Fighters from Al-Nusra Front, Jund Al-Aqsa, and other groups seized the central Al-Eis hilltop and surrounding hills as well,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The jihadists detonated five car bombs during their offensive.

“The hilltops are important because they reinforce the regime’s presence in the outskirts of Aleppo and gave them a presence near the main highway south towards Damascus,” Abdel Rahman said.

Aleppo province is broken up into a complex patchwork of territories under the control of various groups.

The Islamic State group is dominant in the east, while rebel groups — some allied with Al-Nusra — control much of the west.

Government forces based south of Aleppo city have tried to expand their control north and east.

Further west in Idlib province, at least 19 civilians were killed in an air strike believed to have been conducted by either Russian or regime planes, the Observatory reported.

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