In the past 24 hours, Turkish-backed rebel factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured seven fomerly ISIS-held villages in the countryside of northeastern Aleppo.
Thus, the FSA has imposed full control over the villages of Tall Aisha, Jubbayn, al-Burj, Bulaykhah, Tall Jurji, Ash Shuhuh and Maziji Ameriyah.
During clashes for the aforementioned villages, a FSA spokesman said 1 rebel fighter was killed and 8 more wounded. On the other hand, he claimed 24 ISIS militants were killed. The spokesman also stressed that the US-led coalition conducted seven airstrikes on Sunday in support of the rebel advance.
In total, Turkish-backed FSA factions have seized 1,370 square kilometers and 179 villages from ISIS in the northern parts of the Aleppo governorate in merely 75 days.
Remarkably, today’s rebel advance puts the FSA just 13 kilometers northwest of Al-Bab, the last major city in Aleppo province still under Islamic State control.
The Turkish-backed offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ saw rebel forces funnelled across the border by Turkey in late August 2016 during a major military campaign which aimed at establishing a Turkish buffer-zone in Syria and saw rebel fighters clash with both ISIS and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The Kurdish-led SDF remains hostile to the FSA and has also vowed to capture al-Bab in a military move that would connect two Kurdish-held enclaves in northern Syria. At the moment, the nearest SDF forward units are 15 kilometers west of Al-Bab.
Some rumours also suggest the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to be interested in mounting an offensive towards al-Bab. Due to a government offensive in eastern Aleppo last year, the SAA’s soldiers are only 11 kilometers south of Al-Bab.