Syria insurgents launch assault against government forces near Aleppo: monitors

Men inspect damage after an airstrike on Aleppo's rebel held al-Hallak neighborhood. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian Islamist insurgents attacked government forces and their allies in the country’s northwest on Friday where the same factions recently waged a fierce assault that inflicted heavy losses, monitors said.

The insurgents, including fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, had already captured one village just two hours after beginning the latest attack southwest of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Government forces were responding with shelling and heavy air strikes in the area, near the town of Khan Touman, the British-based monitoring group said.

Nusra Front spearheaded an attack on Khan Touman last month, delivering one of the biggest battlefield setbacks yet to a coalition of foreign Shi’ite fighters, including Iranians and the Lebanese Hezbollah fighting in support of Syrian government forces.

It was a rare success in recent months for rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces and their allies have advanced against insurgents, and separately against Islamic State, in a number of other areas.

Russia’s military intervention in support of Damascus in September has helped turn the war Assad’s way.

The al Qaeda affiliate’s battlefield allies in Friday’s assault included the powerful Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and the Turkestan Islamic Party, the Observatory said.

Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Tom Heneghan