Islamic State fighters have seized villages close to the northern city of Aleppo from rival insurgents, a monitoring group said on Friday, despite an intensifying Russian air-and-sea campaign that Moscow says has targeted the militant group.
News of the advance came as the United States announced it was largely abandoning its failed program to train moderate rebels fighting Islamic State and would instead provide arms and equipment directly to rebel leaders and their units on the battlefield.
The Obama administration is grappling with a dramatic change in the four-year-old Syrian civil war brought about by Moscow's intervention in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Pentagon said on Friday it expected to hold new talks with Russia's military on pilot safety in Syria's war as soon as this weekend, as the former Cold War foes seek to avoid an accidental clash as they carry out rival bombing campaigns.
The Russian defense ministry said stepped-up air strikes on rebel positions in Syria killed 300 anti-Assad rebels and that it hit 60 Islamic State targets over the last day. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll.
About 200 insurgents were killed in an attack on the Liwa al-Haqq group in Raqqa province while 100 died in Aleppo, the defense ministry said. Two Islamic State commanders were among the dead in Russia's most intense raids since it launched strikes in Syria 10 days ago. In previous updates Russia has reported hitting 10 targets daily.