Beirut (AFP) - The Islamic State on Friday besieged a strategic bastion of rebels fighting both them and the Syrian government after less than a week of combat in which at least 121 people died, a monitoring group said.
Since Sunday, the Islamists have taken control of a series of areas near the strategic northern town of Marea in Aleppo province, which lies about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Aleppo city and is on a major road to the Turkish border.
"On Friday evening, the IS (Islamic State) wrested the village of Tlaline, thereby totally encircling Marea," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"The jihadists are now besieging the town from the east, north, south and southwest," he said.
He added that the IS group also control the road to the west of the town which leads to the Turkish border 25 kilometres away.
"Tlaline is in the hands of IS," said Mamoun al-Khatib, the head of Shahba, an anti-regime news agency based in Aleppo.
"IS is raping our villages and towns one by one, we are crying for help but no one is responding," he said in a Facebook post.
The Observatory said 76 rebels and 45 IS members have died since Sunday when the IS launched their offensive against Marea, one of the first towns to rise against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.