ISIS, islamska država.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Day Donaldson, used under CC BY

Syrian opposition forces backed by US airstrikes Wednesday lifted a siege on the frontline town of Marea, in northern Aleppo province, pushing back Islamic State fighters, a monitoring group said.

Marea is a key part of the last rebel-held enclave in Aleppo, a shrinking piece of territory near the border with Turkey.

"The siege has been lifted on Marea," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa.

In May, Islamic State attacked Marea, a main town in the southern part of the enclave, cutting it off from the lifeline of A'zaz on the Turkish border. Some 160,000 people are trapped in the enclave, with Turkey having shut its borders.

The north of Aleppo was cut off from the south in February by government forces, backed by Russian air power.

The rebel push back of Islamic State comes amid a wider offensive against the extremists being led by the Kurdish dominated Democratic Forces of Syria (DSF) further to the east, in the so-called Minbij pocket. Minbij city is just 20 kilometres from the Turkish border.

Minbij is the last piece of territory Islamic State holds on the Turkish border, with Kurdish officials charging the group still has supply lines running over the frontier. The US also says the goal of the operation is to limit foreign fighter flows to Islamic State.

The offensive inside the pocket is being led by Arab brigades within the DSF, according to US officials. The US has launched more than 105 strikes in support of the battle.

Turkey itself has been wary of the offensive against Islamic State, as it is concerned about advances by Kurdish forces in the People's Protection Units (YPG), which has links to Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in south-eastern Turkish provinces.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was given promises by the US that Kurdish forces would not remain in Minbij after Islamic State was ousted. Washington hasn't confirmed Cavusoglu's claim.

Meanwhile, in Aleppo city, the Syrian government stepped up on assault on rebel positions in the eastern sections, dropping barrel bombs from helicopters, according to activists. The city is split, but the rebel-held section is coming under increasing pressure.

The Syria Campaign, a pro-opposition advocacy group, said in a tweet: "Aleppo has run out of coffins and body bags. And the bombs keep falling."

Activist Mahmoud al Shahabi, who lives in Aleppo, said cemeteries are full and people are using "what remains of the public garden and children playgrounds to bury their loved ones."

The defence ministers of Iran, Russia and Syria are scheduled to meet on Thursday in Tehran to discuss the battle against Islamic State, according to Iranian media reports.

Latest news

Merkel calls for fewer EU regulations as nationalist sentiments grow

As voters in the Netherlands, France and Germany show increasing support for nationalist, euro-sceptic political movements ahead of this year's elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for limits on EU regulations.

French prosecutors transfer Fillon case to investigative judge

The French judiciary has opened a formal investigation in connection with presidential candidate Francois Fillon to examine whether the employment of his wife as a parliamentary employee was a sham, the country's financial prosecutors' office said Friday.

White House bars major news outlets from press briefing

Major news organizations, which were Friday blocked by the White House from attending an informal press briefing, condemned the move just hours after President Donald Trump described parts of the media as "the enemy of the people."

Report: German intelligence spied on BBC, other foreign journalists

Germany's intelligence agency monitored foreign journalists at the BBC, the New York Times and other news organizations from 1999 onwards across several countries, according to a Friday report from Der Spiegel magazine.

Classroom for Islamic religious education opened in Split

A classroom for Islamic religious education, whose equipment was financially assisted by city and county authorities, was opened in the coastal city of Split on Friday.

Ministry say no licences for export of military goods to Saudi Arabia issued in 2016

The Economy, Enterprise and Crafts Ministry on Friday issued a statement regarding media reports about export licences for military goods, stressing that in 2016 it did not issue any licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Croatia for preserving Bosnia's stability

Croatia on Friday supported the stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), calling on its authorities to adopt decisions in institutions, after a request by BiH Presidency Bosniak member Bakir Izetbegovic to review a ruling which acquitted Serbia of genocide.

Mexico is not a migrant "waiting room" for US, interior minister says

Mexico will not accept undocumented immigrants from other countries whom the United States plans to deport, Mexico's interior minister said Friday.

Right-wing populist Wilders declines first Dutch election debate

Candidates from nine Dutch parties answered questions from journalists Friday at the first national radio debate of the election campaign, but the leading candidate

Bosnian Croat reps insist on channel airing programmes in Croatian

Being one of the constituent peoples, the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entitled to a broadcaster that will air programmes in their native language, HNS BiH official Ivan Vukoja said at a news conference in Mostar on Friday.

Same-sex couples in Slovenia can marry

A Slovenian law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into force on Friday and the first civil registrar ceremony, between two women, is to take place in Maribor on Saturday, the town's Vecer daily said.

Moody's changes Agrokor's outlook to negative

The Moody's rating agency on Friday changed its outlook for the Agrokor food retailer from stable to negative, affirming its rating of B3.