US broadens bombing campaign in Syria, angers Western-backed rebels

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AFP Photo / Matthew Bruch

US airstrikes have targeted a Syrian rebel group with connections to Nusra Front, a Syrian watchdog reported. Syrian rebels, however, are reportedly upset with the change of strategy, saying it strengthens President Assad’s grip on power.

The Obama administration’s stated purpose for commencing an aerial campaign on Syrian territory – without Syria’s permission, not to mention that of Congress – was to deal a deadly blow to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL), the ultra-violent Islamic group that has cut a swath across northern Iraq and Syria.

Those efforts suffered a setback Thursday when it was reported that US forces hit a compound belonging to the Islamic group Ahrar al-Sham in the town of Babsalqa in Syria’s northwestern territory, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Ahrar al-Sham is a rebel group that is not connected to Islamic State, but is said to be affiliated with the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise. The group is a member of the Islamic Front, an alliance of seven rebel groups believed to be funded by Saudi Arabia that signed declared their unity last November.

The Islamic Front also is fighting to topple the Assad government, but does not seek cooperation with the Syrian National Coalition, which it views as a foreign project.

Later Thursday, US airstrikes also targeted Nusra Front overnight in the border towns of Sarmada and Harem, where at least two children were killed, according to the Observatory. A Tweet dispatch from the Al-Qaeda-linked group blamed “the alliance of crusaders and Arabs on Al-Nusra positions, causing deaths, mostly of civilians.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of sources, said that at least six Nusra Front fighters were killed in the US-led coalition air strike.

Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels, who view the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham as allies against the Assad government, have never expressed support for the Obama administration’s decision to target even the savage Islamic State fighters.

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