Turkish-backed Syrian rebel and regime forces are racing to capture the IS-held city of al-Bab in Aleppo province, which will prelude an assault on the militant group’s stronghold of Raqqa.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces have intensified their assault on the Islamic State group-held town of al-Bab, northern Syria, as regime forces lead another advance from the south.
Free Syrian Army soldiers look poised to enter al-Bab after rebel forces captured hills surrounding the town while regime troops are leading a separate assault from the south.
Rebel fighters took the western fringes of the town with Turkish military support, with sources telling Reuters that IS defences appearing to crumble.
They now appear looked in a race with the Syrian regime to capture the town, which some analysts said could potentially see Damascus lock horns with Ankara.
“With last night’s assault, Islamic State’s defences have been broken through and the advance is now continuing,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, according to Reuters.
One rebel group claimed they had entered the town in a video sent to the news agency.
“I am in Bab now but not at the centre. We are on the outskirts. Thank God, we have reached this place,” said a fighter from the Sultan Murad rebel group.
Turkish-backed rebels began an assault on IS-held in August known as Euphrates Shield, but a lightning advance slowed when regime fighters approached al-Bab.
Since rival regime forces, including the elite Tiger Forces, began an assault on villages to the south of al-Bab over the past week – which saw the town completely encircled – it has led to Ankara to intensify its Euphrates Shield operation.