Syrian army, allies push back IS near Aleppo

World Wednesday 25/January/2017 21:03 PM
By: Times News Service
Syrian army, allies push back IS near Aleppo

Beirut: Syrian government forces and their allies drove IS militants out of several villages northeast of Aleppo between Tuesday and Wednesday, a monitoring group said, bringing them closer to territory held by Turkish-backed rebels.
Advances in the last week have brought the Syrian army to within 8 km (5 miles) of the IS-held town of Al Bab, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Al Bab, which the Turkish-backed insurgents are separately fighting to seize from the militant group, lies some 30 km northeast of Aleppo and 30 km south of the Turkish border.
Turkey said on Tuesday it would not hand over Al Bab to Syrian forces after driving out IS. The Turkish-backed rebels are closer to doing so than the Syrian army, having already reached the town's outskirts.
Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman described renewed assaults by the Syrian army which began last week as a race to recapture the city before the Turkish side got there.
The fight to seize Al Bab is one of several overlapping conflicts being fought in Syria.
Turkey, which is fighting its own Kurdish insurgency, wants to drive both IS and Kurdish fighters from areas along its border.
In a sign of increasingly close Russian-Turkish cooperation even as they continue to back opposing sides, Moscow said last week its warplanes had joined forces with Turkish jets for the first time to target IS militants in Al Bab.
One Turkish soldier was killed and five were wounded in a clash with IS militants near the town on Wednesday, Turkey's military said.
The wounded were taken to hospital after the clash at around 5pm (1400 GMT) in the Kabr Al Mukri area near Al Bab, the army statement said.
Dogan news agency reported that the IS militants had staged a rocket attack on the Turkish unit, prompting retaliatory ground and air fire from the Turkish forces.