Aleppo – Turkey’s military forces and allied Syrian rebels entered the city of al-Bab on Saturday for the first time after months of clashes with ISIS, local sources reported.
The Turkish-led forces entered al-Bab from the northwest, seizing control of several neighbourhoods. This while the Syrian regime’s troops continued to push towards the city from the south, cutting off a main ISIS supply route.
However, Islamic State’s (ISIS) fighters still hold control of major parts of the city.
“Clashes are still ongoing in al-Bab, as ISIS militants continue to resist attacks by the Turkey-led Euphrates Shield campaign. However, today’s progress shows that main ISIS defences have broke down,” rebel spokesman Saleh al-Zein told ARA News.
According to a statement by the Turkish Army, at least 43 ISIS militants were killed in Saturday’s clashes.
“At least 245 ISIS targets, including the group’s shelters, headquarters, defence positions and vehicles, were hit by Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters with Turkish Land Forces’ support,” the statement said.
It added that Turkish warplanes have destroyed 55 buildings used by ISIS as hideouts, two headquarters, two meeting points, a guard station, an arms depot, and a wireless station.
Turkey and its rebel allies have been bogged down in al-Bab for almost three months, taking significant casualties. ISIS constructed a warren of tunnels and an extensive trench line in anticipation of the fighting.
On August 24, the Turkish military and allied rebel factions launched Operation Euphrates Shield. As part of the operation, Turkey’s military and its allies took over Jarablus city in August.
In early January, the Russia Air Force conducted several airstrikes near al-Bab, targeting Islamic State’s tactical units and fighting positions. The Russian air raids destroyed key ISIS strongholds, killing and wounding dozens of ISIS militants.
On 4 January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkey-backed offensive of the Euphrates Shield Operation to take Syria’s al-Bab city from ISIS should conclude soon.
In mid-January, the Syrian regime has also joined the battle for al-Bab city. Analysts believe that the regime is increasingly alarmed by the Turkish advance towards al-Bab, considering it a direct threat to eastern Aleppo, which was recently retaken.
Reporting by: Helin Saeed | Source: ARA News
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