Turkish backed Syrian rebel fighters in their offensive against the positions of the so-called Islamic State in northern Syria. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation against ISIS in northwestern Syria has slowed down outside of the city of al-Bab, which is held by militants with no progress on the ground or bomber flights.
The Turkish military statements on Saturday and Sunday claimed that ISIS militants “were put under pressure by strikes from units in the region and on the border” but an official told Hurriyet, under condition of anonymity, that the operation has notably slowed down.
“There is currently no progress, and the Air Forces are not making any flights,” the official claimed.
The Euphrates Shield operation has seen Turkey provide air, artillery, armor and troop support to an army of at least 1,500 Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels. It successfully forced ISIS to retreat from the town of Jarablus shortly after it was launched on August 24 and has also forced the militants out of the town of Dabiq.
However, al-Bab is a larger city and there are an estimated 300 ISIS militants occupying it. The slowdown in the advance could mean the Turks are preparing to mount a siege against the city.
The Syrian regime is against FSA rebels taking over that city, fearing they could use it as a base for the anti-regime opposition. Ankara suspects that Syria might have been behind a suspected airstrike which killed four Turkish soldiers on November 24. Those soldiers had been in a temporary headquarters outside of al-Bab which has since been moved.
Turkey is also believed to be taking into consideration the fate of two of its soldiers believed to have been kidnapped by ISIS last week.