Syrian rebel fighters, backed by Turkish army, have taken control of the northern Syrian town of Dabiq from the Islamic State (ISIS) group, in a wide military aiming to clear the northern Syria of ISIS fighters and Kurdish threat.
The rebels, backed by Turkish tanks and warplanes, took Dabiq and neighboring Soran after clashes on Sunday morning, said Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions involved in the fighting.
“The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” he told Reuters, using a pejorative name for Islamic State.
A commander of the Syrian opposition Hamza Brigade said ISIS fighters put up “minimal” resistance, before withdrawing in the direction of the much larger ISIS-held town of al-Bab to the south.
Saif Abu Bakr told The Associated Press news agency some 2,000 opposition fighters pushed into Dabiq with tank and artillery support from the Turkish army. The commander said the ISIS fighters left the town heavily mined.
Both Turkish and international coalition warplanes conducted air strikes on Dabiq and nearby Arshak, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The battle for Dabiq has been building for weeks – with one village after another being seized from IS by rebel fighters backed by Turkish airstrikes.
In the end, it seems to have fallen swiftly after the announcement of the final assault on Saturday.
Al-Jazeera reported that the rebels have not only taken control of Dabiq but also some towns nearby.
“This is huge setback for ISIS because it is not only a strategic town but it also holds a huge symbolic value for ISIS,” yjr report said.
“About 3,000 civilians have fled their homes as the rebels are now turning their attention to the town of al-Bab.”
A Turkish military source said that while Dabiq was largely under control, Islamic State fighters were still firing on the FSA groups from outside the village and that some rebels had been killed in blasts by landmines and other bombs. ISIS
The rebels and Turkish military were working to secure Dabiq’s surroundings to prevent any remaining Islamic State fighters trapped in the area from escaping.
The village, at the foot of a small hill in the fertile plains of Syria’s northwest about 14 km (9 miles) from the Turkish border and 33 km north of Aleppo, has little strategic significance in its own right.
But Dabiq and its surroundings, where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State had brought 1,200 fighters in recent weeks, occupied a salient into territory captured by the Turkey-backed rebels.
However the militants still hold most of Syria’s Euphrates basin, from al-Bab, 26 km southeast of Dabiq, through the group’s capital of Raqqa and to the Iraqi border.
Ankara launched the Euphrates Shield operation, bringing rebels backed by its own armor and air force into action against Islamic State, in 24 August, aiming to clear the group from its border and stop Kurdish groups gaining ground in that area.