Rebels seize em­blem­atic IS strong­hold

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Syr­ian rebels dealt a ma­jor sym­bolic blow to the Is­lamic State group yes­ter­day by cap­tur­ing the town of Dabiq where the mil­i­tants had promised an apoc­a­lyp­tic bat­tle. The Turk­ish-backed op­po­si­tion forces seized con­trol of Dabiq and sev­eral nearby towns, in the lat­est in a se­ries of ter­ri­to­rial losses suf­fered by IS in Syria and Iraq. The de­feat for IS came as US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry was to meet Euro­pean al­lies in London as part of a new diplo­matic push to end Syria’s con­flict, which has left more than 300,000 peo­ple dead since 2011.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, Turk­ish state me­dia and a rebel fac­tion said op­po­si­tion fight­ers backed by Turk­ish war­planes and ar­tillery seized con­trol of Dabiq. The town, in Syria’s north­ern prov­ince of Aleppo, is of lit­tle strate­gic value. But Dabiq holds cru­cial ide­o­log­i­cal im­por­tance for IS and its fol­low­ers be­cause of a prophecy that states it will be the site of an end-of-times bat­tle be­tween Chris­tian forces and Mus­lims.

The Ob­ser­va­tory, a Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor­ing group, said rebel forces “cap­tured Dabiq after IS mem­bers with­drew from the area”. The Fas­taqim Union, an Ankara-backed rebel fac­tion in­volved in the bat­tle, said Dabiq had fallen “after fierce clashes”. Fas­taqim said rebels then went on to seize sev­eral nearby towns, in­clud­ing Sawran, Ih­ti­may­lat, and Sal­i­hiyah. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency also said the rebels cap­tured Dabiq and Sawran and were work­ing to dis­man­tle ex­plo­sives laid by re­treat­ing IS fight­ers. It said nine rebels were killed and 28 wounded dur­ing clashes on Satur­day.

Dabiq has be­come a by­word among IS sup­port­ers for a strug­gle against the West, with Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies bomb­ing mil­i­tants por­trayed as mod­ern-day Cru­saders. But ear­lier this week, IS down­played the im­por­tance of the rebel ad­vance on the town. “Th­ese hit-and-run bat­tles in Dabiq and its out­skirts - the lesser Dabiq bat­tle - will end in the greater Dabiq epic,” the group said in a pam­phlet pub­lished on­line Thurs­day.

IS, which seized con­trol of large parts of Syria and Iraq in mid-2014 and de­clared an Is­lamic “caliphate”, has been dealt a se­ries of mil­i­tary de­feats this year and is brac­ing for an as­sault on its key Iraqi strong­hold Mo­sul. Turkey launched an un­prece­dented op­er­a­tion in­side Syria on Au­gust 24, help­ing Syr­ian rebels to rid its fron­tier of IS ji­hadists and Syr­ian Kur­dish mili­tia.

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan on Satur­day said Turkey would push fur­ther south to cre­ate a 5,000-sq-km safe zone in Syria. The border area has be­come deeply un­sta­ble, and on Sun­day three Turk­ish po­lice of­fi­cers were killed when sus­pected IS suicide bombers blew them­selves up dur­ing a raid on their sleeper cell in the south­east­ern city of Gaziantep.

Fight­ing continued mean­while in the city of Aleppo, where gov­ern­ment troops have been wag­ing a fierce Rus­sian-backed of­fen­sive on rebels in the east­ern quar­ters. Clashes took place in Aleppo’s north­ern and south­ern out­skirts yes­ter­day, as well as in the city cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the Ob­ser­va­tory. AFP’s cor­re­spon­dent in Aleppo said there had been nearly non-stop air raids on the op­po­si­tion-held half of the city since mid­night.

The Ob­ser­va­tory said at least four peo­ple were killed in raids on the city’s east yes­ter­day. Rebel fire on gov­ern­ment-con­trolled dis­tricts mean­while left three peo­ple dead and more than two dozen wounded ac­cord­ing to state news agency SANA. Fight­ing has surged in Aleppo fol­low­ing the col­lapse last month of a cease­fire bro­kered by the United States and Rus­sia, rais­ing deep in­ter­na­tional con­cern.

Kerry flew to London yes­ter­day to brief Wash­ing­ton’s Euro­pean al­lies after “brain­storm­ing” talks in Lau­sanne with the main play­ers in Syria’s con­flict. The Swiss meet­ing on Satur­day in­cluded key rebel back­ers Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia, and Turkey, as well as regime sup­port­ers Iran and Rus­sia. But it did not pro­duce a con­crete plan to re­store the truce that col­lapsed amid bit­ter re­crim­i­na­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Mos­cow.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin yes­ter­day said his coun­try was “al­ways ready to talk with ev­ery­one” on ways to end the con­flict, and took a jab at France who he said was “not so in­volved” in peace ef­forts. Putin had ac­cused France of push­ing for a UN pro­posal on Syria know­ing Rus­sia would veto it. Kerry is ex­pected to meet yes­ter­day with his coun­ter­parts from Bri­tain and France, but hopes for a break­through have been dim.

Bri­tish for­eign min­is­ter Boris John­son is ex­pected to pro­pose “no-bomb­ing zones” for Syria - in­clud­ing Aleppo - dur­ing the meet­ing, the Sun­day Times re­ported. Quot­ing a source close to John­son, the report said he would seek back­ing from Wash­ing­ton and oth­ers for a pro­posal to threaten strikes on Syr­ian mil­i­tary sites in re­tal­i­a­tion for bomb­ings of cer­tain ar­eas or fa­cil­i­ties such as hos­pi­tals.

DABIQ, Syria: Turk­ish-backed Syr­ian op­po­si­tion forces, one car­ry­ing a Turk­ish flag, pa­trol in this sym­bol­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant town yes­ter­day. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.