Syrian army will press on against ISIS near Aleppo
Syrian government forces have rapidly driven ISIS back in the last two weeks, advancing to within 6 km (4 miles) of the city of al-Bab
The Syrian army signaled on Thursday it would press on with operations against ISIS northeast of Aleppo, in a veiled warning to Turkey which backs a separate military campaign in northern Syria.
Syrian government forces have rapidly driven ISIS back in the last two weeks, advancing to within 6 km (4 miles) of the city of al-Bab that the extremists are fighting to hold.
The army’s gains risk sparking a confrontation with Turkey, which has sent tanks and warplanes across the border to support Syrian insurgents who are trying to seize al-Bab in a separate offensive.
Turkey’s offensive, launched last year, aims to drive both ISIS and Syrian Kurdish fighters away from its borders, as Turkey sees both groups as a security threat.
Syria’s military general command said government forces and their allies had recaptured more than 30 towns and villages from ISIS, and a 16 km (10 mile) stretch of the highway that links Aleppo to al-Bab to the northeast.
“This achievement widens the secured areas around Aleppo city and is the starting point for (further) operations against Daesh (ISIS),” a military spokesman said in a statement broadcast on state TV.
The military “confirms its commitment to ... protecting civilians and maintaining the unity of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the statement added, in a remark apparently directed at Turkey.
Turkey’s offensive has brought the rebel factions it backs - some of which have also fought against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Aleppo - to the outskirts of al-Bab, according to a group that monitors the war.