Free Syrian Army forces on the outskirts of Dabiq, Syria in October. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish-backed forces entered ISIS-held al-Bab on Friday, Russia’s Sputnik news reported, citing Free Syrian Army (FSA) sources. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has denied the reports.
ISIS put up strong resistance as the FSA entered the city from the north and east, setting off a car bomb that killed at least 10 people. Persons wounded were taken to hospitals in Turkey.
Street fighting is ongoing in the town, according to Sputnik.
The FSA reportedly liberated several areas, including in the Aqil mountains west of the town, Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported.
The Observatory reported, citing reliable sources, that the FSA had not entered the town yet but had reached "the northern outskirts of al-Bab city, amid heavy shelling by the Turkish forces targeting areas of the city."
The monitor said on Saturday morning that 12 people had been killed in missile and rocket attacks in al-Bab.
On Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told the Turkish parliament that the FSA was approaching al-Bab with Turkey’s support and “it is anticipated that the operation will be completed in a short period of time,” according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
Turkish officials have said that after al-Bab, they will turn to Manbij to continue their efforts to clear “terrorists” from the border region – both ISIS and Kurdish forces (People’s Protection Units, YPG).
Çavuşoğlu told the parliament that preparations for Manbij have begun. Turkey has sent a team of experts to conduct preliminary field investigations. “We have sent our team to Manbij along with US soldiers,” he said.
Manbij was liberated from ISIS by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the summer with coalition air support. It is now under the control of the locally-formed Manbij Military Council. The YPG said last month that the last of their forces have left the city after completing training of locals.