Turkish bombardment on the ISIS-held town of al-Bab in Syria has killed 24 civilians in the last 24 hours, while the Turkish forces denied and said they target only the terrorists.
Turkey’s military operation in Syria named Euphrates Shield, which was launched last August to drive Islamic State militants from its border and prevent Kurdish fighters from gaining ground and strengthening their positions, has changed the balance of power in northern Syria and added more tension to the already complicated area.
have managed to retake the ISIS stronghold of Jarabulus, alongside with al-Rai to the west and Dabiq city. Now their operation is focused on al-Bab as the last major stronghold for ISIS in northern Syria.
Al-Bab is 40km northeast of Aleppo, where the government defeated rebels in December – its most important gain in the nearly six-year-old war.
The Turkish forces reached the outskirts of al-Bab city on 13 November 2016. The first battle against the ISIS was on 21 December 2016 when ISIS prevented Euphrates Shield factions from entering the city, what made the Turkish forces begin a new military operation on 7 February.
ISIS fighters in the area are now effectively surrounded by the Syrian army from the south and by Turkish-backed rebels from the north, as Damascus and Ankara race to capture the largest stronghold of the armed group in Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syrian civilians killed by Turkish bombardment
According to the Observatory, The continuous clashes since the 7th of February 2017 have coincided with tens of air raids carried out by Turkish warplanes which targeted al-Bab city and other areas in the towns and areas controlled by the organization and its surroundings. in conjunction with violent and intense shelling by the Turkish forces and raids by other
In addition, the city witnessed violent and intense shelling by the Turkish forces and raids by other warplanes believed to belong to the coalition.
The Observatory added that 24 civilians including 11 children and women were killed in the past 24 hours, raising to 409 civilians casualties at least, including 85 children under the age of eighteen and 48 citizen women over the age of eighteen, of who were killed as a result of the Turkish shelling on al-Bab city and its countryside since the 13th of November 2016.
However, the Turkish government denied this news and said the target only the terrorists.
The battle intensifies
The continued bombardment is accompanied by clashes between ISIS and the rebels under the flag of Euphrates Shield, around the eastern outskirts, in addition to clashes between regime forces and ISIS in the southern eastern countryside of al-Bab city, after a massive attack by regime forces on the area since the 12th of February 2017.
Turkey’s defense minister said on Thursday that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have completely surrounded the city.
“Now Al-Bab is completely surrounded. A serious cleaning operation is being done inside the city,” Fikri Isik, Turkey’s defense minister said.
“There is a very intense operation to clear Al-Bab’s city center of ISIS elements. The Free Syrian Army [FSA] and the Turkish Armed Forces have been conducting [operations] together,” Isik told reporters at a news conference.
His comments followed similar ones by the Turkish president.
“Al-Bab is about to be captured. Manbij and Raqqah are next,” The Turkish president, Mr. Erdogan, said, adding their number one priority was to form a safe zone in the country.
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey does not have any plans to stay in Syria after the operations end, saying Turkey’s only goal is to “clear this region of terrorism”.
“The goal is to establish a safe, terror-free zone of 4 to 5,000 kilometers, and to prevent migration from Syria, and ensure the return of [Syrian] people who live now in our camps.
“Of course, in order to do this, we also would like to almost build new cities there. I have shared this with Mr. Trump and coalition forces, including Germany in particular,” he added.
“The next step is to establish a no-fly zone,” Erdogan said. “Then they [the Syrians] will be able to establish their national army and feel themselves safe.”
Erdogan has supported this idea in his recent phone call with Trump, among other issues that reflect a state of understanding between the two leaders.
Turkish officials said that Erdogan urged the US president to curb Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, and cited Turkish progress in al-Bab to argue it would be a better partner in the fight for Raqqa.
In addition, the two leaders had touched on issues including a “safe zone”, as well as the regional migrant crisis and the fight against terrorism. Turkey has long advocated a secure zone for displaced civilians in Syria threatened by Islamist militants or forces fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.