Syrian army will press on against ISIS near Aleppo

Syrian army soldiers man a checkpoint along a road in Aleppo, Syria February 1, 2017.

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.


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