Syrian Rebels Begin Operation to Capture ISIS-held Town at Iraqi Border

Capturing the town of Al-Bukamal from ISIS could hamper its ability to move between the Iraqi and Syrian territories of its self-declared caliphate.

Soldiers from the Syrian army carry a rocket to fire at ISIS positions in the province of Raqqa, Syria, February 17, 2016.
Alexander Kots, AP

REUTERS — Syrian rebel fighters began an operation on Tuesday to capture a town held by ISIS at the Iraqi border, a senior rebel commander said, opening a new front against the militants who are also being attacked by U.S.-backed forces in the north.

Capturing the town of Al-Bukamal from ISIS could hamper its ability to move between the Iraqi and Syrian territories of its self-declared caliphate.

"The operation to liberate Al-Bukamal by the New Syria Army, and the Authenticity and Development Front has started," said the commander, who declined to be identified.

The New Syria Army was formed some 18 months ago from rebel fighters driven out of eastern Syria by ISIS as it expanded its territories in mid-2014 following the capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The New Syria Army has received support from the U.S.-backed alliance that is battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in Syria has gone up a gear this month, with an alliance of militias including the Kurdish YPG launching a major offensive against the group in the city of Manbij in northern Syria.