Jihadists closing in on Syrian rebel stronghold

BEIRUT – Syria’s Western-backed opposition called on Saturday for U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group as the jihadists captured three northern villages, putting them within striking distance of a mainstream rebel stronghold.

Islamic State fighters have overrun nearly a dozen towns and villages in Aleppo province this week, crushing what little resistance they have encountered. Those gains threaten rival factions’ supply lines to neighboring Turkey and squeeze the mainstream armed opposition’s position in the country’s largest city, Aleppo, which is also under assault by President Bashar Assad’s forces.

With the mainstream rebels’ foothold in Aleppo becoming increasingly precarious, the Syrian National Coalition urged the international community to “quickly support the Free Syrian Army with weapons and ammunition” so it could “defend its people.”