Syr­ian Army Ad­vances against IS Near Aleppo

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

Da­m­as­cus: The Syr­ian army and its al­lies made a sud­den ad­vance on Satur­day and Sun­day into ar­eas held by Is­lamic State in north­west Syria, a war­mon­i­tor­said,as­the­ji­hadist­group re­treated af­ter los­ing the city of al-Bab toTurkey-backe­drebel­sonThurs­day.

On Sun­day, the army also took the town of Tadef, just south of al-Bab af­ter Is­lamic State with­drew from it, state tele­vi­sion re­ported. Ear­lier this month, a se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cial said Tadef marked an agreed di­vid­ing line be­tween the Syr­ian army and the Turkey-backed forces. The east­wards ad­vance in an area south of al-Bab has ex­tended Syr­ian army con­trol across 14 vil­lages and brought it within 25km (15 miles) of Lake As­sad, the stretch of the Euphrates above the Tabqa dam.

Is­lamic State’s hold­ings in north­west Syria have been evis­cer­ated over re­cent months by suc­ces­sive ad- vances by three dif­fer­ent, ri­val forces:Syr­ian Kur­dish­groups backed by the United States, the Turkey-backed rebels, and the army.

By tak­ing Is­lamic State ter­ri­tory south of al-Bab, the army is pre­vent- ing any pos­si­ble move by Turkey and there­bel­group­sit­sup­port­sto­ex­pand south­wards, and is mov­ing closer to re­gain­ing con­trol of wa­ter sup­plies for Aleppo. Fight­ing in the area is con­tin­u­ing as the army and its al­lies ad­vance, the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tain-based war mon­i­tor, said on Sun­day.

Is­lamic State’s loss of al-Bab af­ter weeks of bit­ter street fight­ing marks the group’s ef­fec­tive de­par­ture from north­west Syria, once one of its most fear­some strongholds, and an area of im­por­tance be­cause of its lo­ca­tion on the Turk­ish bor­der. Steady ad­vances since 2015 by the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces, the Kur­dish-led al­liance of armed groups, had al­ready pushed Is­lamic State from much of the fron­tier by the mid­dle­oflastyearand­havesincethen threat­ened its strong­hold in Raqqa.

Turkey’s en­try into Syria’s civil war via the Euphrates Shield cam­paign in sup­port of rebel groups fight­ing un­der the ban­ner of the Free Syr­ian Army was in­tended both to push Is­lamic State from the bor­der and to stop Kur­dish ex­pan­sion there.

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