Uğur Ergan – ANKARA
The Turkish army has established a temporary base in a strategically important point of the newly captured al-Bab, located in northern Syria.
Turkish military sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Turkish army founded a temporary base on the hilltop of Akil inside al-Bab, which it along with its ally Free Syrian Army (FSA) liberated from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The sources described the hilltop as the “most critical area” with regards to its strategic location, adding that it was overlooking the northern Syrian town.
The base also functions as a place where armored vehicles used in Turkey’s ongoing Euphrates Shield operation are parked and repaired if damages are minor.
Launched on Aug. 24, 2016, the Euphrates Shield operation aims at clearing its border with Syria of terrorists, which include ISIL and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces, which Turkey regards as a terrorist organization due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
Turkey had captured Jarablus and symbolically important Dabiq from ISIL as a part of the operation.
The Turkish army had also set up a base in Dabiq after capturing it and the base in al-Bab is no larger than that in Dabiq, the sources said.
Three Turkish troops were also slightly wounded during sweeping operations inside the town when a blast occurred.
The military sources also denied FSA’s claim that 22 Syrian regime forces’ soldiers had been killed in clashes in the south of al-Bab, near the town of Tadef.
Sources said the Sultan Murad Brigade, which operates under FSA, spotted a group of around 12 Syrian regime forces’ members coming close to the “green line,” an emptied road that separates the Ankara-backed FSA from the forces of the Syrian regime in the south of al-Bab.
FSA members fired a warning shot as the Syrian regime forces continued to march, whereupon the regime forces responded in the same way.
commander leading the Syrian regime forces in the region reached out to a Turkish commander leading the FSA forces through a previously established “red telephone line,” and told his counterpart that the Syrian troops accidentally came close to the area where FSA members were stationed. Upon this call, the Turkish commander also ordered the rebels to cease fire and a clash was avoided, sources said.
Meanwhile, following the capture of Tadef from ISIL over the weekend, Syrian regime forces moved forwards to Manbij, which lies to the east of al-Bab. Manbij was captured by Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from ISIL last year. PYD’s military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), is the main element of the SDF along with some Arab forces.