Syrian rebels advance in ISIS stronghold of Dabiq

Syrian Crisis: rebels advance against ISIS, 15 killed in explosion
Turkish army tanks make their way toward the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016

Syrian rebels, backed by the Turkish army, began an attack on Islamic State’s stronghold of Dabiq in northwestern Syria on Saturday, a rebel commander said. ISIS

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said the rebels were advancing on Dabiq and a Turkish security source said they had that morning cleared the militants from the hamlet of al-Ghaylaniyeh.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the rebels had also taken the villages of Irshaf and Ghaitun, which would all but cut off Dabiq and another large village, Soran, in an isolated pocket surrounded by rebels.

Turkey-backed rebel commander Colonel Abdul-Razzaq Freiji said participants of the Operation Euphrates Shield are bombarding Dabiq and the nearby town of Soran in preparation for an all-out ground offensive on the two areas.

ISIS has stationed around 1,200 of its fighters in the town, according to the Observatory, which has been held by the group since 2014. The surrounding countryside has also been heavily mined.

the Turkish military sources said the operation was ongoing.

“The operation for Dabiq started 10 days ago. We started the effort to take control of the region from the south. Daesh (Islamic States) targets are being hit by Turkish fighter jets and artillery” one of them said.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups have been pushing into ISIS territory in an operation backed by Turkey since 24 August. Several towns near the village have been recaptured in recent days.

The operation, called Euphrates Shield, aims at clearing the Syrian-Turkish border from ISIS militants, as well as eliminating the threat of Kurdish militias in the area.

Turkish special forces and the air force are providing support to the rebels, who opened two fronts against ISIS, in Jarablus where the operations started and in al-Rai town to the west.

Al-Rai is about 55 km (34 miles) west of Jarablus, and part of a 90-km corridor near the Turkish border that Ankara says it is clearing of ISIS militants and protecting from Kurdish militia expansion.

Dabiq and another village, Soran, are both in a pocket mostly surrounded by territory gained by the Turkey-backed rebels after recent advances.

Syrian rebels advance in ISIS stronghold of Dabiq