Syria: 22 killed as rebels clashed with regime forces near al-Bab

Syrian rebel forces clashed with Assad regime forces near al-Bab city in northern Syria, days after from Islamic state, in response to the regime’s advancement in the area adding more tension to the already overwhelmed situation.

Al-Bab is 40km northeast of Aleppo, where the regime defeated rebels in December – its most important gain in the nearly six-year-old war.

The Turkish forces reached the outskirts of al-Bab city on 13 November 2016. The first battle against ISIS was on 21 December 2016 when it prevented Euphrates Shield factions from entering the city, what made the Turkish forces begin a new military operation on 7 February that led to recapturing most of the town on February 23.

ISIS forces retreated from al-Bab after their defeat and tried to keep their hold on the surrounding areas, but they were met with fierce attacks by both the rebels and regime forces. The two sides aim at strengthening their positions around Aleppo.

On Sunday, the Assad regime forces took the town of Tadef after Islamic State withdrew from it, state television reported. Tadef is located just one kilometer south of Al-Bab.

The eastwards advance south of Tadef has extended Syrian army control across 14 villages and brought it within 25km (15 miles) of Lake Assad, the stretch of the Euphrates above the Tabqa dam.

By taking territory south of al-Bab, the regime is moving closer to regaining control of Aleppo’s water supply, making threats to the rebels’ aims in controlling areas around al-Bab.

A new clash near al-Bab

A rebel official in touch with one of the FSA groups taking part in the Turkey-backed campaign in northern Syria said rebels had opened fire on Sunday in response to an attempt by regime forces to advance closer to al-Bab.

An FSA statement said “22 regime members” were killed.

A Syrian military source said the rebels had “targeted our forces in Tadef with artillery and machine guns”. The source, who described the FSA factions as “terrorist groups that belong to Turkey”, gave no casualty toll.

The rebel official said Turkish forces were not involved in the confrontation, adding that regime forces appeared to be testing the rebels. “They probably hadn’t thought that they would receive such a fierce response,” the official said.

The Syrian military source said the incident showed the rebels’ “main aim is not fighting Daesh (Islamic State), but realizing other goals including an attempt to obstruct the Syrian army’s operation confronting Daesh”.

Russia, which backs the regime, mediated to bring an end to the confrontation, according to a source in militias fighting with Assad regime.

Earlier in February, A clash erupted between the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Assad regime forces near the town of al-Bab while they were racing to capture more villages around the key town, but the clash was stopped quickly after Russian intervention,

A senior Russian official has previously said that Tadef marked an agreed dividing line between the Syrian army and the Turkey-backed forces, but it seems that the rebels were angered with this statement and refused it.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.