FSA launches new phase to liberate Syria’s Al-Bab
ALEPPOTurkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters have launched a new phase in the Euphrates Shield Operation to liberate Aleppo’s northeastern district of al-Bab from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The FSA fighters arrived within two kilometers (1.4 miles) of al-Bab late on Nov. 12, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Nov. 13, citing local correspondents at the scene.
FSA forces also took control of six villages - Hazvan, Susyan, Aldana, Kiyran, Uglan and Avlan , and other residential areas from ISIL by 2:00 a.m. local time (11:00 a.m. GMT) on Nov. 13, coming close to ISIL-controlled Al-Bab.
Two Turkish specialized sergeants and four FSA fighters were wounded after ISIL militants launched howitzer fire on the troops nearing al-Bab, Doğan News Agency reported. The wounded fighters were transported to Kilis State Hospital in Turkey’s south.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian rebels backed by Turkish forces were two kilometers away from al-Bab and were targeting the city with artillery fire and air strikes but it had no immediate word on casualties.
“Opposition factions backed by Turkish troops are two kilometers north and northwest of the town of al-Bab,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory, AFP reported.
Al-Bab, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the Turkish border, has been a key target for Ankara and its Syrian rebel allies since its campaign began on Aug. 24.
“This progress is a continuation of the campaign that began with the capture of Jarablus and has seen the jihadists expelled from an area of 2,500 square kilometers along the border with Turkey,” Abdel Rahman said.
Almost 1,600 square kilometers (617 square miles) of land in northern Syria have been cleared of ISIL militants as part of the Euphrates Shield Operation, which was launched on Aug. 24, a Turkish military statement said. Nov. 13 marked the 82nd day of the operation.
FSA fighters recently took control of five villages in Mare, northwest of al-Bab, and Manbij, east of al-Bab, Anadolu Agency reported.
Iraq captures ancient Nimrud from ISIL
Meanwhile, Iraqi soldiers captured Nimrud, the site of an ancient Assyrian city overrun by ISIL militants two years ago, an Iraqi military statement said on Nov. 13.
“Troops from the Ninth Armoured Division liberated Nimrud town completely and raised the Iraqi flag above its buildings,” the statement said, according to Reuters. The town of Nimrud lies a kilometer (less than a mile) west of the ruins of the 3,000-year-old city.
The soldiers also captured the village of Numaniya, on the edge of the city which was once the capital of an Assyrian empire stretching from Egypt to parts of modern-day Iran and Turkey.
The Iraqi government says Nimrud was bulldozed last year as part of ISIL’s campaign to destroy symbols which the Sunni Muslim zealots consider idolatrous.
Nimrud lies on the eastern bank of the Tigris river, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Mosul where Iraqi soldiers and special forces are battling ISIL for control of the largest city under the jihadists’ control in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Iraqi forces trying to advance further into Mosul were reported to be battling waves of car bombs sent by the jihadists on Nov. 14, according to The Associated Press.
Iraqi special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi said on Nov. 14 “There are so many civilian cars and any one of them could be a bomb.”
Iraqi forces said they have cleared the neighborhoods of Qadisiya and Zahra and were now planning to move deeper into the city. They were building sand berms and road blocks to prevent car bombs from reaching the front lines.