One day after U.S. warplanes struck bases belonging to the Nusra Front in northern Syria, the al Qaida-affiliated group on Friday pressed forward with its campaign against U.S.-backed rebels, storming four rebel-held villages and seizing a town where they ordered rebel fighters to disband and hand over their weapons.
The four villages – Sfuhun, Fatira, Hazareen and Ma’r Zeta – are in the mountainous Jabal al Zawyah region of Idlib province. The captured town is Minnig, in Aleppo province.
Facing destruction by Nusra, rebel commanders say they are now withdrawing forces from frontline positions where they’d faced troops loyal to the government of President Bashar Assad.
Nusra’s continuing advance appeared to be the result not only of the demoralization of rebel forces, which have been receiving ever-diminishing assistance through a U.S.-backed covert program, but of growing support among local residents. Unlike the Islamic State, whose fighters are mostly from abroad, the vast majority of Nusra fighters are Syrians.