Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation in Syria slows down
Uğur ERGAN - ANKARA
REUTERS photoThe military operation launched by Turkey in Syria’s north against terror groups in the region has slowed down after reaching a key town held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The slowdown in the Euphrates Shield Operation, in which Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels are backed by Turkish artillery and air strikes, as well as members of the Special Forces, has been reflected in briefings provided by the Turkish military.
In statements made on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, the military said ISIL militants “were put under pressure by strikes from units in the region and on the border,” but no details were given about the number of targets hit or militants killed.
“There is currently no progress, and the Air Forces are not making any flights,” said one official who asked to remain anonymous.
According to sources, three main reasons are behind the slowdown in the Euphrates Shield operation.
1. ISIL has put up strong resistance in al-Bab. There are more than 300 ISIL militants in al-Bab city center, including snipers, and the militants are believed to have heavy weapons. The ISIL presence in the town was boosted by forces who had withdrawn from Dabiq.
2. Preparations are being made for a siege to break the resistance. Forces are advancing from the north and the west for an efficient siege, which will be followed by similar moves from the east and the south. The stage to seize al-Bab will start after the siege is completed. A temporary headquarters near al-Bab, where four Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike believed to have been carried out by Syrian regime forces, has been moved to another location.
3. The situation of two Turkish soldiers abducted by ISIL militants last week is also being considered, with military moves being planned in a way not to risk the two soldiers’ safety. Sources say there are significant leads on the whereabouts of the abducted soldiers.