FSA bent on marching forward to take control of Daish-held al-Bab
by Yunus Paksoy
OYLUM ON SYRIAN BORDEROct 03, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Yunus Paksoy
Oct 03, 2016 12:00 am
The Turkey backed Free Syrian Army advances confidently toward the Daish-held town of al-Bab, a 960 square kilometer area liberated in 40 days from terrorists. An FSA commander expressed minor problems in the FSA have been sorted out, which has boosted its morale
The Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) remains confident that it will accelerate the march toward the Daish-held town of al-Bab in the south of northern Syria and take control of it to realize Turkey's goal of securing a 5,000-square-kilometer safe zone in Syria as part of Operation Euphrates Shield. As Daily Sabah observed the latest developments in Turkey's cross-border operation in the border village of Oylum in Kilis, commander of the Sultan Murat Brigade within the FSA, Muhammed Şıhlı, told Daily Sabah in an exclusive talk that some minor problems in the FSA have been sorted out and the opposition fighters are looking forward to liberating Daish-held al-Bab.
Having secured Turkey's southern border by connecting the Azaz-Jarablus line, the FSA's pace has slowed down recently due to some problems among groups within the opposition army. The FSA also lost some areas in northern Syria following the dispute among the groups over the U.S. soldiers' participation in Operation Euphrates Shield. In spite of losing areas in northern Syria, the FSA quickly recovered with the help of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Thanks to howitzer fire and airstrikes conducted by Turkish fighter jets, the FSA retook control of villages near al-Rai, also known as Çobanbey in the region.
Acknowledging that the march toward al-Bab has slowed down over the last couple of weeks, Şıhlı said that the FSA is ready to go south by joining forces from the eastern and western parts of northern Syria.
"We have been liberating villages west of al-Rai recently. In the next few days, we will start an offensive from the east of al-Rai as well," Şıhlı asserted.
After the FSA liberated Jarablus shortly after Operation Euphrates Shield started on Aug. 24 and secured the Azaz-Jarablus line, Turkey set its sights on the strategic Daish-held town of al-Bab. The town is quite significant because Daish operates many of its activities from there.
Apart from al-Bab's significance for Daish, Turkey wants the FSA to reach the town before the PKK's Syrian wing the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) does. Turkey does not want to risk letting the YPG seize the town, which would enable the terrorist group to connect its cantons from the east and the west to reach the Mediterranean.
The PYD previously reacted to Operation Euphrates Shield harshly. On the day that the operation kicked off, PYD leader Salih Muslim threatened Turkey, claiming that it would be defeated in Syria. It remains unknown why the PYD responded negatively to Turkey's cross-border operation that is aimed at battling Daish.
The FSA still has some 20 kilometers to cover before reaching al-Bab. Despite slowing down over the last weeks, the opposition army has boosted its morale with the groups within the army solving their inner problems.
Şıhlı said that Taşlıhöyük village in Jarablus is the current target of the FSA, which will enable the army to further advance southwards. "We will liberate Taşlıhöyük in the next days and continue our advances southwards," he asserted.
960 square kilometers liberated in 40 days
Sunday marked the 40th day of Operation Euphrates Shield. According to a statement released by the Turkish military, the Turkey-backed FSA has liberated around 960 square kilometers in 40 days from Daish. In the same period, the Turkish army hit 1,657 Daish targets with 6319 howitzer and rocket rounds.
"Twenty-eight landmines and 993 handmade explosives have been destroyed since the beginning of the operations," the statement also said.
On Sunday, the Turkey-backed FSA seized Uvaysiyah, Tall Atiyah, Cubban and Al-Eyyubiyah regions in the south of al-Rai, the statement further said, adding that two FSA fighters were killed and 8 injured in the clashes.
In addition, Turkish fighter jets dropped 8 bombs onto seven targets in Aktarin, Ghaytun and Kuaybah, killing four Daish terrorists.
Meanwhile, three rockets fired from a Daish-controlled area in Syria hit border city Kilis yesterday. No injuries or casualties reported. Security forces were dispatched to the scene and took security measures after the blast. Turkish howizters responded with artillery fire to the rockets, military sources said. The rockets created large holes in the places they hit.
The TSK's statement stressed that Operation Euphrates Shield was launched and is being carried out in line with Turkey's right to self-defense as part of international agreements and the United Nations' decisions to counter Daish.