On Thursday, rebel militants of various Free Syrian Army (FSA) brigades attacked and captured several villages from ISIS in the northern Aleppo countryside.
Thus, the FSA imposed full control over the villages of Dweir Al-Hawa, Abla and Tall Ali as their forces gradually approach the Islamic State stronghold of Al-Bab. The capture of these villages, located northwest of Al-Bab, puts rebel units just 13 kilometers from the city.
During the FSA offensive, the Islamic State put up little resistance and continued a rolling retreat from the region, focused on minimizing ISIS casualties and pinning Syrian rebels and Kurdish fighters against one another.
Meanwhile, the predominately Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) seized nearby Tall Madiq from the FSA on Wednesday and also rather notably reopened the frontline between Jarablus and Manbij, capturing a further two villages from the FSA on this axis; namely Umm al-Jabul and Ala Bash.
Due to recent advances, SDF militants are approximately 18 kilometers west of Al-Bab.
The control of Al-Bab is highly significant for all three warring parties. For the Islamic State, it represents the group’s last major city in Aleppo province and a vital buffer-zone into the Raqqa governorate.
Meanwhile, if the SDF is to capture the city, it will allow them to connect two separated Kurdish-held regions in northern Syria. Finally, for the Turkish-backed FSA, rebel fighters are motivated by the idea of reaching Aleppo city from its eastern flank, assisting their entrenched Islamist comrades who are besieged by Syrian government forces.
Given the current rate of advance, anti-ISIS factions are expected to reach Al-Bab before the end of 2016.