Syrian army repels militant attack on northern villages

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, January 9, 2015

Updated at 4:35 pm (GMT+2): Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, and other militant groups fought during the night to capture two villages in the country's north but were repelled, activists on both sides of the war and a monitoring group said on Friday.

Al-Zahraa and Nubl, which were under attack on Thursday, are villages in the Aleppo Governorate.

Nusra militants were briefly able to control streets in the southern part of Zahraa and buildings in the nearby village of Nubl, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The militants, who used seven tanks, were pushed back from both areas by the National Defense Force (NDF), a grouping of loyalist militias under the umbrella of the army, it said. During the clashes the Syrian air force also provided cover for the NDF, the Observatory added.

According to the monitoring group, at least 25 people were killed, including 14 militants. The jihadists left behind three tanks, the Observatory added quoting witnesses.

Syrian activists published photos on social media that they said showed the bodies of Nusra Front fighters in a ditch near the villages. The authenticity of the photos has not been confirmed by independent sources.

A reporter for website Al-Masdar News confirmed that Nusra Front militants were repelled in the two villages, adding that the NDF was backed by fighters from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which supports President Bashar al-Assad.

Both towns have been under a long siege by anti-government militants. The army has used helicopters to drop supplies to the villagers, who have been trapped in the region.

Nusra Front had also launched an offensive in November aimed at seizing Nubl and Zahraa.

Aleppo and surrounding areas have been hit by heavy fighting in a conflict which is now in its fourth year.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Nusra Front, other Islamist brigades, and rebels fighting under the umbrella of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army have taken part in the Syrian war, fighting across the country against the Syrian army and militias supporting Assad.

According to the United Nations at least 200,000 have been killed during the conflict and insurgents have besieged 26,500 people.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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