Syria Daily: The Race to Capture Al-Bab from Islamic State

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PHOTO: Fighters in the Turkish-rebel offensive in Bzaah village, east of the town of al-Bab


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    Racing to take the town of al-Bab in northwest Sria from the Islamic State, both the Turkish-rebel offensive and pro-Assad forces claimed advances on Saturday.

    The Turkish-rebel offensive captured the village of Bzaah to the east of al-Bab. But the pro-Assad troops, who have closed within 6 km (3.5 miles), moved into Aran to the south (see map).

    However, a report from a pro-opposition activist later said that the Islamic State had pushed the Turkish-rebel troops out of Bzaah, raising new questions about the effectiveness of the offensive.

    Al-Bab is the last major position of ISIS in Aleppo Province, after the Turkish-rebel offensive from last August took the corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border and pressed south. The assault on al-Bab was launched in early December; however, it has struggled against ISIS resistance including suicide vehicle bombs and improvised explosive devices.

    Last week, the Assad regime’s military command highlighted its own effort to take al-Bab, proclaiming that its advance had recaptured 32 towns and villages from Islamic State, as well as a 16-km (10 mile) portion of the highway from Aleppo city to al-Bab.

    See Syria Daily, Feb 3: An Assad Regime Showdown with Turkey-Rebels in Aleppo Province?

    A “source in the military alliance” supporting the regime said the pro-Assad force was ready “to clash with the FSA [Free Syrian Army] fighting” alongside Turkey, if necessary.

    The Foreign Ministry sent letters to the UN, criticized the Turkish-rebel captures of villages near al-Bab and condemned “Turkey’s repeated crimes and attacks against the Syrian people and violations of the sanctity and unity of Syria’s territory”.

    Ankara has said that it will not hand over al-Bab to the Assad regime until a political settlment is reached.

    Video from the pro-opposition STEP News Agency highlighting “the race to al-Bab”:

    Fighters from the Turkish-rebel offensive in the center of Bzaah village:

    TURKISH-REBELS BZAAH 02-17 2


    Report: US-Led Airstrike Kills Ahrar al-Sham Commander

    A US-led airstrike has reportedly killed another commander of the leading rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham.

    Abu Hani al-Masri, a 65-year-old Egyptian, was killed near the village of Batbo in western Aleppo Province. He was a veteran of fighting in Afghanistan and Somalia.

    The US has declared a campaign of “targeted killing” of the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, now the leader of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham coalition. In recent weeks, scores of commmanders and fighters of JFS — formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra before it formally broke ties with Al Qa’eda in July 2016 — have died in strikes.

    However, the American assaults have also killed members of Ahrar al-Sham, the largest group in the Syrian rebellion.

    Ahrar al-Sham is now standing uneasily against the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham coalition, having pledged to protect factions from attacks by JFS last month.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. “A US-led airstrike has reportedly killed another commander of the leading rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham.”
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    So Trump will go further than Obama in helping Assad!

    • Obama bombed Ahrār too. The guy killed was an Egyptian with a history in transnational jihad, which fits the profile of a typical US assassination target. Trump might go farther than Obama, but this one strike isn’t indicative of a change in policy.

      • Tundra: Call it a speculative delusion but it may actually help Ahrar in the long-term if all their non-Syrian leaders get bumped off and their entire leadership ONLY dominated by Syrians only. It might assist in shaking off enough ex-jihadists that a merger between purely-Syrian Ahrar faction with the muslim-brotherhood leaning members of the FSA.

  2. #International: “Deutsche Welle’s Persian service says the United States agreed with three Middle East countries about joint military action against Iran.” – fuadhud
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    Hmm. Trump is unpredictable enough to seriously consider doing this.
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    #Aleppo: “Heavy build up of #Turkish armor near #Azaz, signaling a new attack on #YPG (PKK).” – CombatChris1
    .
    Did anyone seriously think the Turks were going to allow the YPG/PKK/PYD free hand in northern Syria? Furthermore if people check the history of my posting they’ll see that I did say it’d be better (ie made more political and military sense) for the Turks to go after Afrin and Manbij only and let the regime go after Bab because the attempt (ie it’d be extremely difficult – same obstacles the Turks are facing now – for the SAA to permanently capture and hold, furthermore it’d demand the regime commit so much equipment and men to capture it that it’d delay a future regime offensive in southern Aleppo for months – time which would allow rebels to merge and create larger groupings and better train their men) to capture it would be a logistical mess.

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