On Monday evening, Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions officially entered the northern parts of al-Bab city after a series of rapid advances towards the ISIS bastion.
Furthermore, rebel groups fighting under the FSA banner also seized the village of Bash Jurn northeast of al-Bab and the strategic ‘Tall Tawilah’ hill northwest of the city.
Preceded by a massive artillery bombardment and tens of joint Turkish and American airstrikes, FSA fighters – supported by Turkish tanks – advanced some two kilometers southwards from the village of Qudayran and seized a large farm area north of al-Bab.
Thus, Syrian rebel forces imposed full control over the al-Kassab farms, al-Nama farms, and Wadi ar-Rasif area. Notably, the FSA was able to establish fire control over the Jafirah Roundabout and capture several adjacent buildings inside al-Bab city.
Although the FSA controls less than 5% of al-Bab, it is not yet known how much resistance ISIS will put up. Fortunately for the advancing rebels, much of the Islamic State’s manpower has been diverted into defending Raqqa and Mosul, ISIS’ two largest cities.
Since Turkey launched operation ‘Euphrates Shield’ 84 days ago, Syrian rebel forces have captured 214 villages and towns from the Islamic State, often abandoned entirely by its militants during what can be seen as a large-scale gradual withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also seized a batch of villages east of al-Bab from ISIS; namely, Hutah, al-Qarah, Tall Turin, and Qawuqli. Effectively, Kurdish forces have enveloped the ISIS-held crossroad town of Arima on the M4-highway.
On a separate but somewhat related frontline, SDF fighters also followed up on recent gains on Saturday and were able to capture a further two villages and one hill from ISIS in northern Raqqa; Khunayz, Khunayz Thathani and Rujm Sheikh al-Hulw.
The SDF and FSA remain at a state of war with each other despite both sides enjoying support from the United States. In fact, earlier today, Turkey even delivered artillery support for ISIS at Tall al-Jijan (west of al-Bab) in order to prevent Kurdish fighters from capturing the village and advancing towards al-Bab.
Al-Bab has been under ISIS control since 2014 when the Islamic State leadership broke off its ties with the Syrian Opposition and expelled Syrian rebels from the city.
NOTE: The above map is slightly outdated and only serves to give an overall strategic understanding of various advancing factions. Map credits to ‘Islamic World News’.