U.S.-led coalition airdrops weapons to Syria rebels in Aleppo province

Civilians wait in a shelter while fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces secure their village after they took control of it from Islamic State fighters, in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State in Syria air-dropped weapons to rebels in the town of Marea in northern province Aleppo on Thursday, a rebel commander and monitoring group said.

The commander, requesting anonymity, said ammunition was dropped. “The alliance dropped them ammunition ... Their situation was difficult,” he told Reuters, without elaborating.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said weapons and ammunition were dropped. It was the first time the coalition had dropped weapons to fighters other than the Syria Democratic Forces, an alliance fighting separately against IS that includes the Kurdish YPG militia.

Islamic State last week drove rebels, including foreign-backed groups, out of areas near the Turkish border and cut off supply lines to rebel-held Marea, in a setback to groups that have been supported through Turkey.

Those groups are backed by states opposed to President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s five-year-old civil war. They have separately been fighting against IS and have struggled to advance against it in the area.

The U.S.-led coalition is simultaneously supporting the SDF, which includes the YPG and Arab fighters, in a new offensive against IS further east around the town of Manbij and have made gains against the jihadists.

Reporting by John Davison and Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Roche; Editing by James Dalgleish