THE Syrian civil war intensified further yesterday, with Turkish, al-Qaida and US forces all launching aggressive actions.
The US airdropped Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia fighters south of the Euphrates river in an audacious attempt to capture the south side of the Tabqa hydroelectric dam.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pohan said the deployment was intended to cut the road from the Isis stronghold of Raqqa — the target of the Kurdish-dominated SDF’s offensive — to the east of Aleppo province.
But that would also allow the US-backed militia to block the Syrian army’s advance on Raqqa and the Isis-besieged city of Deir Ezzor to the east.
Control of the dam, which generates some 800mw of electricity and provides a major crossing of the Euphrates, is also strategically crucial.
Earlier, overseas-based monitoring groups repeated local reports that the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve coalition had bombed a school where some 50 families were sheltering.
In Washington, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attended a summit of the international coalition fighting the death cult.
Earlier, Turkish forces shelled the north Aleppo canton of Afrin, held by the Kurdish YPG militia.
The Turkish military claimed the attack was in revenge for the killing of one of its troops at a border post by a sniper across the frontier.
To the south, the Syrian army isolated Isis in the town of Deir Hafer after they cut the main road east to Raqqa.
And in the north of Hama province, Hayat Tahrir asSham (Hetesh), the latest alliance between al-Qaida and Western-backed factions including Ahrar as-Sham, launched a major offensive.
The army rushed reinforcements to the front as the militants claimed to have advanced to within three miles of Hama, the provincial capital.
Hetesh reportedly overran the towns of Suran and Khattab — regained by the army after a previous offensive from Idlib province to the north last year — but the official Sana news agency denied that.
In Damascus, the army recaptured a textiles factory lost the day before to the second Hetesh offensive in the capital since Sunday.
The army’s advance — backed by heavy air strikes — set back the extremists’ bid to break through from the Jobar district to Qaboun, where surrounded militants face imminent defeat.