300 Turkish commandos to join Operation Euphrates Shield
AFP photoA total of 300 Turkish commandos will join Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation, according to a military source, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported Dec. 9.
The special troops of the 11th Command Brigade departed from the Çardak Military Airport in the western province of Denizli, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The special operation forces known as the Blue Berets were airlifted to the Syrian border, the source added.
The forces are being sent to northern Syria to reinforce the troops. Around 20 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the launch of the operation on Aug. 24, with the aim of clearing its border with Syria of terrorist groups, which include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG).
Meanwhile, Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have largely seized control of the al-Bab-Manbij highway as a part of the Euphrates Shield operation, the Turkish Armed Forces stated on Dec. 9.
The military said in a statement that FSA fighters had mostly seized control of the highway, along with the Zarzur residential area, on the 108th day of the operation.
Turkish warplanes also conducted an air operation in the region, destroying 34 ISIL targets, militant bases, shelters, vehicles mounted with guns, and ammunition depots, a second military statement said on Dec. 9. Ten targets had also been hit the day before.
According to military, the jihadist group also hid its armed terrorist elements in al-Bab near hospitals and public buildings to minimize the influence of FSA fighters in the region.
“There is a major assault under way,” a fighter with the Turkmen Sultan Murad brigade speaking from inside Syria told Reuters. “God willing we will break [ISIL] resistance this time. Very powerful troops were sent last night.”
Syrian government forces press attack in east Aleppo
The Syrian army pressed an offensive in Aleppo on Dec. 9 with ground fighting and air strikes in an operation to retake all of the city’s besieged rebel-held east that would bring victory in the civil war closer for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Syrian army had halted military activity to let civilians leave rebel-held areas, RIA news agency reported.
“The advance is going according to plan and is sometimes faster than expected,” a Syrian military source told Reuters on Dec. 9, adding that the Syrian army and its allies had recaptured 32 of east Aleppo’s 40 neighborhoods, about 85 percent of the area.
Reuters witnesses, rebels and a monitor on Dec. 9 confirmed the military thrust. There were no reports the Syrian army had made significant gains.
Despite Lavrov’s announcement, there was no sign on the ground that fighting had slowed.
Russia’s air force and Iran-backed Shiite militias are also fighting in Aleppo on the government side. Rebel leaders have given no sign they are about to withdraw as the civilian population is squeezed into an ever-decreasing area.
The Russian military said on Dec. 9 it had helped more than 8,000 Syrian citizens flee parts of eastern Aleppo still controlled by rebels in the last 24 hours, including almost 3,000 children. This could not be independently verified.