Turkish forces fight ISIL to capture al-Bab, 14 soldiers killed
AA photoClashes between Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants intensified in the central parts of Syria’s al-Bab, where 14 Turkish soldiers and 138 jihadists were killed in fighting on Dec. 21.
As part of the ongoing Euphrates Shied Operation, Turkish and Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fought with the help of fighter jets and artillery fire for a hospital and the surrounding area in central al-Bab on Dec. 21, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a statement.
“Once this area has been seized, Daesh’s dominance of al-Bab will to a large extent be broken,” it said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Earlier in the day, the military said that with the support of rebels and ground and air elements, the road between the strategic Syrian cities of al-Bab and Aleppo was taken under control.
ISIL was using suicide bombers and vehicle-borne explosives extensively, it said, adding that four bomb-laden vehicles with jihadists inside them were struck in air strikes.
The military raised the death toll to four from three for the Turkish troops killed in the clashes in al-Bab after one more soldier out of the 16 wounded succumbed to his injuries at hospital.
Howver, the military daid in a statement later in the day that 10 more Turkish soldiers were killed in three seperate suicide attacks in the afternoon. Some 18 others were wounded.
After the lightning speed of the earlier campaign that saw the border town of Jarablus taken on the first day of the offensive, the Turkish army has suffered increasing casualties in the fight for al-Bab.
With the latest additions, more than 30 Turkish troops have been killed as part of the Euphrates Shield Operation.
On Aug. 24, the Turkish Armed Forces launched the Euphrates Shield Operation against both ISIL and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the military wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Turkey regards the YPG and the PYD as terrorist organizations due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Currently clashes are continuing intensively in the area,” the military statement said, describing the hospital area, on the slope of a hill overlooking al-Bab, as having long been used by ISIL as a weapons and ammunition store.
The army said air strikes and artillery fire destroyed 47 sheltering places. Another eight armored pickup trucks were also destroyed in the strikes.
Four Turkish soldiers were slightly wounded when the vehicle they were travelling in was damaged by a roadside blast, according to Reuters.
The Amaq news agency, affiliated to ISIL, said a suicide attack was carried out against the Syrian rebels and Turkish troops west of Al Bab, without giving further details.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor based in the U.K., reported fierce clashes at the southwestern edges of al-Bab, with some rebel advances there.
It said Turkish air strikes in the area had killed seven people in al-Bab and that 15 Turkish-backed rebels had been killed in fighting on Dec. 21.