Assad’s forces advance north toward rebels backed by U.S., Turkey, Gulf states

by WorldTribune Staff, January 22, 2017

Syrian forces backed by Russia, Iran and Hizbullah seized several villages from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) on Jan. 22 as they advanced closer to Turkish-backed rebels in the country’s north.

President Bashar Assad’s army and its allies captured the villages of Sora, Moran, Surja al-Saghira and Surja al-Kabira, located about 16 kilometers (10 miles) southwest of al-Bab and roughly the same distance east of Aleppo.

Anti-Assad rebels supported by Turkish jets, armored vehicles and special forces are attempting to capture al-Bab from ISIL after reaching its northern outskirts a month ago.

The main battle in Syria’s civil war is between Assad and his allies and rebels that include groups backed by Turkey, Gulf states and the United States.

Both sides, as well as a separate group of Kurdish-led militias, are also fighting against ISIL and retaking territory which the jihadist group controls in northern Syria.

“Although Turkey has long been one of the biggest supporters of anti-Assad rebels, its entry into Syria last summer was aimed at pushing ISIL from its border and at stopping Kurdish groups linking two enclaves they control along the frontier,” Reuters reported on Jan. 22.

“After rebels lost their pocket of territory in Aleppo in December, Turkey and Assad’s main supporter Russia brokered a ceasefire and peace talks in Syria between the government and insurgents.”

Last week, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek seemed to soften Ankara’s position against Assad, saying it was no longer realistic to demand a resolution of the conflict without his involvement.