Turkish and Free Syrian Army forces have besieged al-Bab since late November. Photo: AA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – ISIS is preparing to withdraw from the northern Syrian town of al-Bab nearly two months after Turkey launched an operation to oust the extremist group from the town, according to Turkish military sources.
“In light of recent information from the region, it can be said that ISIL is preparing to withdraw from al-Bab as a result of the military operation of the Turkish Armed Forces,” Hurriyet Daily News quoted Turkish military sources as saying on Friday.
ISIS has moved its headquarters out of the town and into the Tadif area, a village just south of al-Bab, the news outlet reported.
The militant group had “lost hope” after losing senior bomb makers in airstrikes, state-run Anadolu Agency reported, citing local sources.
The Turkish army began Operation Euphrates Shield on August 24 in which it aims to clear border areas of “terrorists,” Turkish leaders have said, referring to both ISIS militants and Kurdish forces. Turkey is supporting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in the operation.
Turkish and FSA forces have besieged the town since late November but have been unable to make further progress against ISIS who has put up stiff resistance against the offensive on al-Bab, a strategic hub for the group.
On Monday, Al-Monitor reported that ISIS was reinforcing its numbers in the town and was remaining strong in the face of the Turkish assault.
“Turkish air raids against IS locations, ammunition warehouses and military headquarters in al-Bab and its surroundings have increased lately. The Turkish tanks have also been increasingly targeting IS locations, but the shelling did not really weaken the organization, which is maintaining its fierce defense,” an FSA leader in al-Bab, Mohammed Haj Ali, told the news outlet.
US-led coalition planes, at the request of Turkey, recently began to assist Turkey, carrying out airstrikes against ISIS positions. Between January 16 and 23, the coalition carried out 18 airstrikes in the al-Bab area, according to the Combined Joint Task Force’s daily strike reports.
The conflict monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that scores of civilians have been killed in military operations in and around al-Bab.
Turkish military activities in the last 48 hours “have killed 18 civilian casualties” in al-Bab, Tadif, and the surrounding countryside, the Observatory stated on Friday.
According to the Observatory’s figures, 387 civilians have been killed since Turkey began its operation in Syria.