Up until the past few days, US airstrikes in Syria have come in two forms, the ones aimed at directly aiding Kurdish factions against ISIS, and the kind meant to just cause damage to ISIS without an eye toward aiding anyone. Monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is now reporting the first US strikes in aid of a “non-Kurdish” faction in Syria.
The strikes, which began on Friday, were meant to blunt an ISIS offensive against the city of Azaz, which is held by a coalition of Islamist rebels that is dominated by al-Qaeda. Eight were killed in the airstrikes, and 20 wounded.
That was just the tip of the iceberg, however, as the Islamists reported they were “tipped off” about ISIS positions in advance, and captured a large number of them over the subsequent days, publicly beheading a number of captive ISIS fighters.
The rebel faction, which again is al-Qaeda dominated, also released a video showing a battalion of US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels who are fighting alongside them firing US Tow missiles against ISIS targets outside of Azaz.
Azaz is considered a hugely valuable city because it is on the main highway between the city of Aleppo and the major Syria-Turkey border crossing. ISIS controls much of the border east of Aleppo, while al-Qaeda holds the border region in Idlib up to this part of Aleppo. Other crossings are held by Kurdish factions.