Sunday, 12 February 2017

Syrian War Report – February 10, 2017: Syrian Army Clashes With Pro-Turksih Militants Near Al-Bab

In the northern Aleppo countryside, the towns of Tell Rifaat, Menagh, Mayer, Tell Jibbin, Ma’arasteh Khan and Hardatnin have joined a reconciliation agreement with the Syrian government after talks with a Russian mediation. Tell Rifaat and Menagh had been controlled by the Kurdish YPG.
On February 9, an escalation erupted between Syrian government and Turkish forces in the area of al-Bab.
Initially the Turkish General Staff announced that an accidental Russian airstrike had killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others in the area of al-Bab. The incident was confirmed by the Russian military.
Later at the same day, pro-Turkish militants engaged Syrian army and National Defense Forces (NDF) troops at Abu Zandin and Shamawiya located at the road to the ISIS stronghold of al-Bab.
As a result of a series of firefights, two Syrian soldiers were allegedly killed and pro-Turkish militants seized a BMP vehicle.
The Hawar-Kilis Operation Room, one of the biggest factions involved in the Turkish Operation Euphrates Shield, was involved in the escalation. Also, Turkish artillery units allegedly delivered a number of strikes against government forces in the area, according to sources close to Hawar-Kilis.
The escalation came amid reports that Turkish forces once again entered into Qabasin and Bzaah, and the army and the NDF liberated Abu Taltal located in a striking distance from Tadef, an important ISIS defense site at the southern flank of al-Bab.
Separately, Islamists launched an advance in northeastern Latakia, engaging government forces at the Rashu Hill. Initially, militants seized the area and made attempt to develop the success, but then the army and the NDF reversed their gains. The situation remains tense.


Turkish forces once against lost the key town of Bzaah east of Al-Bab after temporarily capturing it from ISIS yesterday. Meanwhile, ISIS units launched an advance against pro-Turkish militants in Al-Ameh aiming to re-establish a supply line to al-Bab which had been under constant artillery fire from the Syrian army since Sunday.
Sporadic firefights and artillery duels continue between pro-Turkish forces and the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” backed by the US in northern Aleppo. Recently clashes were observed near Sheikh Issa, Ayn Daqnah, Tell Rifaat, Mranaz and Shawarigha. An armored personnel carrier with pro-Turkish fighters was destroyed by the SDF between Jibrin and Ayn Daqnah.
At least 6 ISIS vehicles equipped with machine guns were destroyed by the army and the NDF in the clashes near the al-Seen Airbase. Some 34 ISIS members were also reported dead.
The Desert Hawks Brigade has deployed to the area of the Tiyas Airbase in order to support the Syrian army’s advance against ISIS in the province of Homs. The brigade will participate in the army’s operation to liberate the gas fields north of the Homs-Palmyra highway and allegedly take part in the advance on Palmyra. Pro-government sources claim that up to dozen of ISIS suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were destroyed in the recent clashes in the area.
Strategically, government forces will need to Palmyra back from ISIS if they want to develop an advance in the direction of Deir Ezzor where the army defends local population from ISIS attacks. In case of the Russian-US coordination over the conflict, this push will be likely synchronized with the US-backed operation aimed to isolate al-Raqqah. This will increase a military pressure on ISIS and will push it to fight on two fronts in the area between al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor simultaneously.

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