BEIRUT: Daesh (ISIS) took control of some Syrian villages in a rebel-controlled area east of Hama Monday, opening a new frontline days after the Syrian military said it had cleared Daesh from a nearby area.
Daesh said in a statement it had taken control of 12 villages and carried out a big attack on the extremist alliance Tahrir al-Sham.
Tahrir al-Sham, spearheaded by al-Qaeda's former affiliate the Nusra Front, said in its own statement that Daesh had stormed several villages and accused the Syrian army of allowing it to cross government territory.
A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Daesh had taken 15 villages from Tahrir al-Sham, but that the extremist alliance then took five of them back.
On Friday the Syrian army said it had cleared Daesh from its last pocket of territory in a nearby part of the countryside east of Hama after months of fighting.
The Observatory and Tahrir al-Sham said those same fighters were the ones that captured the villages, appearing to have crossed government-held territory. The Observatory said some of them had crossed with groups of civilians.
Although Daesh and the groups that make up Tahrir al-Sham, including the Nusra Front, subscribe to hardline extremist ideology, they have opposed each other for years.
Daesh has not held territory abutting areas held by extremists or other rebel groups in northwest Syria, the most populous area held by the insurgency, since last year.
It has since lost swathes of ground to the Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran and Shiite militias, and a rival campaign by Kurdish and Arab groups in the north supported by the United States.