north Aleppo provinceSeptember 2, 2015http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-9-2-15/The Islamic State (IS) has reportedly struck both Marea, 26km north of Aleppo, and Al-Hasakah to the east with chemical weapons, local medical staff and activists told Syria Direct on Wednesday. “Patient injuries are similar to the attack on Marea on August 21,” Tariq Najjar, Marea Hospital administrative director told Syria Direct on Wednesday, describing the attack the day before. As many as 20 people were injured in the reported chemical weapons attack against Marea, which filled the city with a “loathsome smell,” reported pro-opposition Orient News on Tuesday. Both alleged chemical attacks are reported attempts by IS to regain the upper hand in battles against rebels in north Aleppo and al-Hasakah. IS has encircled Marea, pounding it with artillery, infantry and car-bomb attacks, as part of a broader campaign to preemptively disrupt Turkey’s early-August plan to establish an IS-free “safe zone” in north Aleppo. Meanwhile, more than 300km away in al-Hasakah, Kurdish forces are closing in on IS positions on the border with Iraq. “IS is resorting to chemical weapons to recoup its losses in battle against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the southern and eastern Hasakah countrysides,” Ali a-Naif, a Hasakah-based journalist, told Syria Direct on Wednesday. On-the-ground reports hint that IS might have deployed mustard agent against the north-central Hasakah neighborhood of a-Salehiyah. “The shell left a disgusting smell and shrapnel covered in a yellow, gold-colored substance,” eyewitnesses told the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (YPD) on Tuesday. Syria Direct could not immediately verify a video of victim injuries or reported chemical artillery shells, filmed by pro-opposition Marea News Agency on Tuesday.